MARYLAND — Deer at two national parks in Maryland have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a highly contagious and fatal neurological illness also referred to as “zombie deer disease,” National Park Service officials confirmed.

On Tuesday, officials said the cases were discovered during recent white-tailed deer reduction operations at Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields. Two deer tested positive at Antietam and one at Monocacy, officials said.

While the confirmed cases are the first in Maryland national parks, the disease has been present in the state since 2010, officials said.

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According to the U.S. Geological Survey, chronic wasting disease occurs in North American cervids including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose.


First discovered in 1967, the disease is transmitted freely within and among cervid populations through animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through contact with objects or environment contaminated with the saliva, urine, feces and carcasses of infected animals.

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Once infected, it takes around 18-24 months for an animal to show symptoms. Signs of infection include decreased social interaction, loss of awareness and loss of fear of humans. Diseased animals also may exhibit increased drinking, urination and excessive salivation.

No treatments or vaccines are currently available.

So far, the disease has been detected in 23 states, USGS officials said.

The disease does not infect livestock or humans; however, it is recommended that tissues from infected animals not be eaten. According to officials, the venison from the deer that tested positive in Maryland was destroyed.

NPS officials have advised national park visitors to take the following precautions:

The National Park Service routinely works to reduce the deer population in parks to protect and restore plants, forests and other landscapes. Whenever possible, officials said the venison is donated to local food banks.

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