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'Zombie Deer' Are Invading After A Mutant Disease, And Officials Are Worried

It might sound like a scene out of a horror movie, but deer in the US are falling ill to a deadly "zombie" disease -- and officials are trying to stop the spread. 

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a rare neurological disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose.

It's part of a family of brain diseases caused by the build up of abnormal proteins called prions -- including mad cow disease in cattle, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people.

Symptoms of CWD include drastic weight loss, stumbling, drooling and lack of fear around people.

It's a fatal disease that can wipe out deer populations, and there is no treatment nor vaccine.

CWD affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose.Image: Getty

The disease has never been recorded in Australia, but has been found in some areas of North America, Norway and South Korea.

As of August this year, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported CWD in free-ranging deer in at least 24 states in the US, and two provinces in Canada. It has also been found in farmed deer and elk.

While the overall occurrence still remains relatively low, officials are concerned that infection rates of up to 25 percent have been reported in some local areas.

As of August, 2019, there were 277 counties in 24 states with reported CWD in free-ranging cervids. Image: CDC

States reporting animals with the disease include Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, with regulators now trying to stop the spread to Nevada.

Nevada Department of Wildlife officials are testing dead animals and monitoring migratory elk and deer at the state line line with Utah.

The department has set up several mobile sampling stations, and is urging hunters to lend a hand with fighting the disease.

"We hope that if you harvest an animal, you will consider stopping by and allowing our biologists to collect samples to test for CWD," the department said in a message to hunters.

READ MORE: Fears Zombie Deer Disease Could Spread To Humans 

Restrictions on importing harvested deer, elk and moose have been implemented in 40 US states and seven Canadian provinces

Earlier this year, Nevada legislators passed a law to keep parts of certain carcasses out of the state. This includes the brain and the spinal cord, which have large concentrations of prions.

Symptoms of CWD include stumbling drooling and lack of fear around people. Image: Getty

CWD is a transmissible disease thought to spread between animals through contaminated body fluids and tissue, or through drinking water and food.

The CDC has also raised concern it could pose a risk to humans, who could contract the disease by eating contaminated deer meat.

Many state regulations are in place to help prevent humans from consuming infected meat.