Here's What Happened When Nearly 200 People Ate 'Zombie' Deer Meat

Emily Reily 28 Feb 2019

Let's clear the air first. It's not a "zombie" disease by any stretch of the imagination. Still, that's what some media sites have nicknamed this disease, which ravages animals like deer and moose, eventually killing them.

1. Frightening Fatal Disease

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The disease is properly known as chronic wasting disease, or CWD. So far it's affected deer, moose, and other cervids, but some are concerned that it could cross species and infect humans if we eat the animals' meat.

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2. Meat Tested Positive For CWD

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USA Today writes that in 2005, a business in Oneida County, New York, fed venison to a group of about 200 to 250 people. Unfortunately, the meat had tested positive for CWD.

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3. Why Didn't They Know?

The company was unaware the meat had tested positive. It's unclear who previously tested the meat or why this company wasn't aware of the test. Further lab tests confirmed the disease was present.

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4. Study Conducted In Oneida County

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According to USA Today, the Oneida County Health Department began to monitor some of the people who had eaten the infected meat. Out of at least 200, about 80 agreed to take part in the study.

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5. 'No Significant Changes'


The medical journal Public Health reported that people had "no significant changes in health conditions." USA Today writes that "they did report eating less venison after the whole ordeal." Do you think eating infected meat from a disease that killed an animal might have given them pause for future dinners? More than likely.

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6. Study: Those Who Ate the Venison Seem Fine

The only findings the researchers found after following the people in the study were typical health issues that occur with old age, like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. Someone posted a video of a deer who possibly had CWD that was exhibiting symptoms.

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7. 'Probable' CWD Could Cross Species Barrier

Still, some researchers think it could be "probable" that people could get CWD after eating infected meat "in the years ahead," according to Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

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8. Please Clarify

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Osterholm's statement, as far as USA Today's report indicates, doesn't clarify whether he's referring to the people who ate that meat in 2005, or whether CWD could later actually cross the species barrier and infect other humans who eat venison.

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9. Few Studies Exist

"It’s the only study I’m aware of that has this progressive follow-up of a known point source contamination where we know the people ate a contaminated animal," said Ralph Garruto, a researcher and professor of biomedical and biological sciences at University of Binghamton.

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10. Have Your Venison Tested For CWD

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Just, whatever you do, know where your meat came from. Any meat that you eat.

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