Reports of 'Zombie Deer Disease' confirmed in more than 30 KS counties

(Photo: National Park Service / License Link)

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -- As of August, the Center for Disease Control confirms reports of Chronic Wasting Disease among free-ranging deer, elk and/or moose in at least 24 states. This includes 35 Kansas counties: Cheyenne, Decatur, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Graham, Gray, Grove, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearny, Lane, Logan, Meade, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Pratt, Phillips, Rawlins, Reno, Rooks, Rush, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Thomas, Trego, Wallace.

The CDC defines Chronic Waste Disease, also known as "Zombie Deer Disease," as "a progressive, fatal disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and many other tissues of farmed and free-ranging deer, elk, and moose."

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Biologist Charles Cope says the disease takes more than a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weigh loss, stumbling, lack of coordination, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears and lack of fear of people.

The CDC says scientists think the disease spreads between animals through contact with contaminated body fluids and tissue or indirectly through contaminated drinking water or food.

"(Chronic Wasting Disease) does not appear to naturally infect cattle or domesticated animals," the CDC says.

Experts also say there is no proof that the disease spreads to humans, but if you're a hunter, there are protective measures you can take.

"Wear gloves (and) consider wearing a face mask if you're concerned about anything getting up in your face," Cope says.

Experts say there is no specific way to know if a deer is infected by observing it. The only way to know is through testing on the animal after it dies. One avenue for doing so is through the Kansas State University Diagnostic Laboratory.