Yellowstone National Park, known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, is now facing a new threat: chronic wasting disease (CWD). This “zombie-like” deer disease, which slowly shuts down a deer’s body, has been confirmed for the first time in the park.
First identified in a dead adult mule deer near Yellowstone Lake, the disease has raised concerns among park officials. “Once the disease becomes established, it is difficult to eradicate,” stated officials. This discovery is especially alarming considering the fact that around 15% of the mule deer that migrate into Yellowstone from Cody, Wyoming during the summer are estimated to have CWD.
CWD has been a growing concern nationwide as it has been reported in 31 states across the U.S. The disease, caused by prions that slowly destroy the brain and nervous system, can affect various animals such as deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. It is commonly spread through bodily fluids like saliva, feces, urine, and blood.
Although there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that there may be a risk. Monkeys, in particular, may be at risk if they consume infected animal meat or come in contact with infected animal brains or bodily fluids, according to some studies.
To better understand the potential risk of CWD to humans, scientists are conducting additional studies. However, the origins of CWD can be traced back to a Colorado research facility in the late 1960s, and the first report of a wild deer having the disease dates back to 1981.
As the fight against CWD continues, Yellowstone National Park faces the challenge of containing and managing the disease within its boundaries. The park officials are closely monitoring the situation to protect the diverse wildlife and preserve the natural beauty for future generations.
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