Often referred to as "zombie deer" disease because of the symptoms, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been reported in at least 26 states in the continental United States and in four provinces in Canada. In addition, CWD has been reported in reindeer and/or moose in Norway, Finland, and Sweden, and a small number of imported cases have been reported in South Korea. The disease has also been found in farmed deer and elk.
To view a map that shows the distribution of CWD in North America, click here: Expanding Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease
CWD was recently detected in a herd of deer in Canada.
On July 26, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed a case of CWD in a herd of white-tailed deer, reports Global News:
An Alberta deer farm recorded Canada's third case of a so-called "zombie deer disease" last month.
While the chronic wasting disease (CWD) outbreak was contained — and no infected meat entered the Canadian food supply — experts say more needs to be done to stop the infectious disease from spreading.
The herd was "humanely destroyed on site and did not enter the food chain," the agency told Global News in a statement. "[The farm] remains under quarantine and disease response activities have been initiated."
This is the third case of CWD in Canada for 2019. The two other infections were also identified in Alberta — on Feb. 28 in elk and on June 21 in white-tailed deer. (source)
Before we discuss why this news is important, let's back up a bit and talk about what CWD is and how it may eventually impact the food supply.
What is CWD?
CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease found in deer, elk, moose, reindeer, and caribou. It is a progressive disease that is always fatal.
The disease is believed to be caused by abnormal proteins called prions, which are thought to cause damage to other normal prion proteins that can be found in tissues throughout the body. They are most often found in the brain and spinal cord, leading to brain damage and development of prion diseases. Infected brain cells eventually burst, leaving behind microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter that give it a "spongy" look.