Congress scrambling to study disease turning deer to ‘zombies’

Lawmakers are scrambling to pass a bill in Congress to allow a study into a fatal disease that turns deer into zombies — and could spread to humans.

Senators from states that have been the hardest hit by chronic wasting disease — including Colorado and Wyoming — reintroduced the bipartisan legislation to take a closer look into how the disease spreads and how it can be prevented.

Chronic wasting disease affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose and causes zombie-like symptoms — the animals dramatically lose weight, walk in repetitive patterns, lose their fear of humans and stumble around.

The disease is always fatal and there is no known way to prevent it.

At least 24 states have been ravaged by CWD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If passed, the “Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidea Study Act” would instruct the secretaries of agriculture and the interior to work with the National Academies of Science to take a deeper dive into the outbreaks, according to WJAC TV.

Rep. John Joyce from Pennsylvania announced this week that he would co-sponsor the bill. Joyce’s district covers an area where the Pennsylvania Game Commission is trying to greenlight a massive deer hunt in hopes of keeping the disease from spreading.

The plan is to decrease the population in northern Bedford and southern Blair counties to between 2,000 to 2,500.

Experts warned that the disease could one day infect humans — as was the case with mad cow disease, which spread to people in 1996 as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Scientists believe CWD is passed through bodily fluids, like feces, saliva, blood or urine. But infected proteins, called prions, can remain active in the environment for a long time — putting animals at risk even after an infected one has died.

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