Deadly “Zombie Deer Disease” Is Spreading


( – Virginia has a very healthy deer population. There are more than one million of them in the state. Drivers are acutely aware of this when they are on the highways or driving at night. Unfortunately, a deadly disease is infecting a growing number of those deer.

Virginia’s wildlife experts are investigating the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), sometimes referred to as “zombie deer disease.” According to Fox News, Luis Escobar, a wildlife expert and professor at Virginia Tech, is currently conducting a study to figure out the risk of the disease’s transmission in the state. Virginia Hound Heritage donated $30,000 for the study, the professor explained. He said the goal is to “estimate the paths, direction, and extent of future CWD spread in white-tailed deer.”

The infectious disease is spread through direct contact with the fluids of the infected animal, like saliva, feces, urine, or blood. It’s also spread through contaminated food, water, and soil.

The disease is always fatal. Deer that are at an advanced stage of infection often show signs of decreased activity, weight loss, excessive saliva, listlessness, and other neurologic symptoms. In the early stages, an animal might have increased activity. According to the CDC, an animal infected with the disease could take more than a year to develop symptoms.

White-tailed, black-tailed, red, and mule deer species are all susceptible to infections. And it’s not just Virginia that is seeing a rise in cases, it’s other states as well. In 2022, a bodycam worn by officers in Ohio captured footage of a zombie deer on the side of the road.

There are no reported infections in humans or pets, such as cats and dogs. Other animals, including moose and elk, can be carriers of the disease. Even squirrel monkeys have been known to show signs of infection.

Escobar hopes his study will be able to “generate information” about the possible spread in Virginia in “unprecedented detail.”

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