Oakton Outlook

The truth about “zombie deers”

Kartik Mukalla, Staff Writer

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There’s a new epidemic in America, and it sounds like something out of a cheesy horror movie: Zombie deer. No, really. With viral videos of them popping up every day, the epidemic has spread to over 24 states and does not look to stop soon. While many doubted the videos at first, calling them doctored or part of some sort of marketing campaign, they were quickly disproved by trustable news sources. Of course, while the images and videos are horrifying and looking like something from The Walking Dead, the deer aren’t necessarily zombies.

(View at your own risk)

The disease affecting them is known as “chronic wasting disease”, and it seems to be the same type of affliction as the “mad cow disease” that was stirring the nation into a panic a few years ago. Predominantly found in animals with hooves, such as deer and cows, it was first discovered in the 1960s. It is spread through prions, a special type of infected lifeform that do not have a lot of information about them. The prions eventually consume most of the infected animals’ internal systems, leading to them stumbling around and losing their vision, and also producing tumors and infections all over their body, leading to a zombie-like appearance and behavior.

While people treated these so-called “zombie deers” as some sort of internet phenomenon, the implications of this disease is much more disturbing. These aforementioned prions are incurable, which means that scientists, until they find a cure, simply have to sit and watch affected animals slowly lose control of their physical and mental faculties, eventually dying.

The question on people’s minds, of course, is if “wasting disease” can spread to humans. Scientists are hard at work trying to find an answer to this question, but results are inconclusive. They have tried various experiments, such as exposing the disease to rats with human genes and human cells in Petri dishes, and so far, they have been infected by it. However, a study that focused on people eating infected venison has shown that they have not yet been affected.

With chronic wasting disease spreading across 24 states, mainly in the midwest and east coast, people have also wondered what it takes to cure these infected deer and take away their suffering. Unfortunately, the results of the experiments that scientists have undertaken to answer this is also inconclusive. There are a few techniques that have been found, such as heating the prions to separate them, but the experiments that produced this conclusion have been undertaken in a controlled environment in laboratories.

The zombie deer epidemic might have started as a mysterious internet phenomenon, but chronic wasting disease is a very real and very scary thing to deal with. Despite the lack of evidence that it spreads past deers, the lack of a cure for it and the possibility it will evolve to infect humans means that scientists are doing everything they can to make sure that there won’t be any “zombie humans” any time soon.

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About the Writer
Kartik Mukalla, Staff Writer

Hi, I am Kartik Mukalla. I am a sophomore at Oakton High school and I am a staff writer at the Oakton outlook. Some hobbies of mine are creating music...

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The truth about “zombie deers”