More cases of 'zombie deer' disease found in Pennsylvania

‘Zombie deer’ disease found in 24 states, could spread to humans

More cases of zombie deer disease, officially called chronic wasting disease, or CWD, have spread across Pennsylvania, according to the Game Commission.

Since 2018, 123 additional free-ranging deer have tested positive for CWD. The new cases were found following counties: Bedford (65), Blair (10), Cambria (2), Franklin (3), Fulton (33), Huntingdon (4), Jefferson (1), Juniata (1), Perry (1) and Somerset (3).

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There have been a total of 250 known CWD cases in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania since 2012.

The Game Commission tested 9,631 free-ranging deer and 122 elk for CWD in the 2018 seasons. No free-ranging elk have tested positive for CWD to date.

A total of 6,525 deer tested came from existing Disease Management Areas, with the remaining 3,106 deer tested coming from other areas.

DMAs 2 and 3 have been expanded due to the detection of CWD in the deer. No changes will be made to DMA 4.

Scroll down to learn more about each of the different DMAs.


The disease is primarily found in free-ranging deer, elk and moose, and has been identified in farmed deer and elk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness is fairly low in free-ranging deer and elk, but in some areas where the disease is more established, infection rates can top 10 percent, the CDC reported, and localized infection rates of 25 percent have also been reported. The numbers are even higher in the captive deer population with rates as high as 79 percent or four out of every five deer in at least one captive herd.

There have been no recorded human infections, but here's why the CDC is concerned. Studies have suggested that non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat infected meat or come into contact with an infected animal's body fluid, could be at risk. The CDC said the research raises concern there could be a risk to people as well.

Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended keeping any meat infected with CWD from the food supply.

With no treatments or vaccines for so-called "zombie deer" disease, the illness is fatal, although some infected animals may never develop the disease.

Expanded DMAs

DMA 2 now covers more than 6,715 square miles, an expansion of 2,101 square miles since last year. DMA 2 now includes all or parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, Somerset and Westmoreland counties. This expansion largely is due to the discovery of two new CWD cases in Juniata and Perry counties. Each of these cases is 20 miles or more away from the nearest previously documented case. Both of these deer were adults and one was displaying clinical symptoms of CWD at the time of death, which suggests CWD is established in the area and other deer in the area might already be infected.

CWD-infected deer, on average, do not display clinical symptoms of disease for 18 to 24 months. 
DMA 3 has expanded by 203 square miles and now covers more than 1,119 square miles, due to the discovery of CWD in a captive deer facility in Clearfield County. The captive facility will remain under quarantine for five years from the date the positive test was confirmed. DMA 3 now includes all or parts of Armstrong, Clarion, Clearfield, Jefferson and Indiana counties.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in February announced that a buck tested positive for CWD on a hunting preserve near Curwensville. Shortly after, the Game Commission warned the public that this positive would push the DMA into the elk range. However, after careful consideration, the Game Commission has opted to keep DMA 3 south of Interstate 80 and out of the elk range.

DMA 4 was established in February 2018 due to the discovery of CWD in a captive deer facility in Lancaster County. To date, no free-ranging deer have tested positive for CWD in DMA 4. DMA 4 covers 364 square miles and includes parts of Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

For the most up-to-date maps and descriptions of DMA boundaries, please go to