It sounds like something out of a bad horror movie, but it's real: Hunters in 24 US states and two Canadian provinces are being warned about a devastating "zombie-like" disease that is infecting free-ranging deer, elk, and moose.
If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.
Symptoms of CWD in animals include: stumbling, lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears, aggression, lack of fear of people, and drastic weight loss.
The CDC has found "no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people", and said that "it is not known if people can get infected with CWD prions".
There have been no reported cases of the disease in people, but studies have shown that CWD can pose a risk to non-human primates, such as monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with their body fluids, according to CDC.
The disease previously had been found in wild deer in Fillmore, Houston and Winona Counties. It was first found in captive deer in the U.S.in the 1960s and later discovered in wild deer in the early '80s. "These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people".
The disease, which is progressive and fatal, "affects the brain, spinal cord, and many other tissues of farmed and free-ranging deer, elk, and moose", the CDC says. The infection rates among some captive deer can be much higher, with a rate of 79% (nearly 4 in 5) reported from at least one captive herd.
CDC recommends hunters test animals for CWD before eating them in areas where the disease is known to be present, and to not shoot or handle meat from deer that look odd or are acting strangely.