The first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD), also known as 'zombie' deer disease, has been reported in Yellowstone National Park. The fatal brain virus, which leaves animals confused, drooling, and uncoordinated, has been found to reduce their fear of humans. The US National Park Service has issued an urgent warning to its patrons, urging them to report any sightings of sick or dead wildlife and to avoid contact with these animals. The park's staff is racing to prevent the further spread of this brain disease.
CWD has been spreading across the United States, affecting more than 23 states, two Canadian provinces, and even South Korea. The US Geological Survey has highlighted the alarming rate of its spread. However, the US National Park Service has assured the public that there is currently no evidence suggesting that CWD can infect humans or domestic animal species. Nonetheless, game hunters have been cautioned against consuming tissues from infected animals.
Multiple rounds of testing conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Wildlife Health Laboratory confirmed the presence of CWD in the tested mule deer. The disease is transmitted through prions, similar to 'Mad Cow' disease. Affected animals experience weight loss, loss of coordination, and other fatal neurological symptoms. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine or cure for CWD, making it a 100 percent fatal disease.
Due to the recent discovery, Yellowstone National Park officials are revising their CWD surveillance plan for 2021 and will introduce a new protocol version next year. The park is working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to monitor the deer and other hooved species, both alive and dead, to better understand the extent of CWD's spread within the park.
Yellowstone's detection of CWD marks the completion of its westward expansion across Wyoming over several decades. Montana state wildlife regulators are also collaborating in monitoring game caught by local hunters in the region surrounding Yellowstone. While this news serves as a point of interest, it is not expected to drastically change Montana's CWD surveillance plans. The focus remains on continued monitoring, communication, and collaboration to manage the disease among the state's wildlife populations.
The presence of CWD in Yellowstone National Park highlights the urgency for further research and prevention efforts, as this contagious disease poses a threat to the wildlife population. With no cure currently available, vigilance and proactive measures are crucial in mitigating the spread of this devastating brain disease.