Two hunters may have become the first Americans to die from a ‘zombie deer’ disease.

Experts have been warning for years that the nearly 100 percent fatal chronic wasting disease (CWD) – which leaves deer confused, drooling, and unafraid of humans – could jump from animals to people.

But a new study theorizes that it has already happened – in two hunters who died in 2022 after eating contaminated venison. One of the victims, a 72-year-old man, suffered ‘rapid-onset confusion and aggression,’ as well as seizures. He died within a month.


At least 32 states in America and parts of Canada have seen reports of a virus dubbed 'zombie deer disease' in animal populations. No cases have ever been confirmed in people

He was diagnosed after his death with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a brain-wasting condition that has been compared to Mad Cow Disease.

The hunter’s friend also died from the disease but there were limited details about his condition in the research published last week in the journal Neurology.

The researchers are from Texas but details about where the deaths happened is also not known. has reached out to the researchers for comment.

CJD is caused by misfolded proteins – when proteins do not fold into the correct shape – called prions.

After infection, prions travel throughout the central nervous system, leaving prion deposits in brain tissues and organs.

Similar to CWD, CJD is caused by misfolded prions, though it most likely afflicts patients at random.

However, researchers believe that due to a history of both hunters eating meat from that infected herd, they could have actually developed CWD.

‘Although causation remains unproven, this cluster emphasizes the need for further investigation into the potential risks of consuming CWD-infected deer and its implications for public health,’ the team wrote.