And you thought zombies weren't real ...

... well, at least that's what I thought.

The zombie virus officially broke out in Maryland, and it's targeting our local deer populations. So here's the bad news:

(Wait, as in news WORSE than a real, live zombie virus???)

Zombie deer disease, or chronic wasting disease, is related to Creutzfelt-Jacob Disease. That's science for the human form of "mad cow disease," a horribly degenerative disease that basically eats your brain. Like a zombie. Get it?

But it gets worse. Infected deer, elk, and moose are known to become crazy-skinny and crazy-aggressive. And, in case you didn't already know this, moose are already super-huge and super-aggressive, so good luck if you run into a zombie moose.

The good news is you don't necessarily have to stop chowing down on all that venison you salted this winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don't have any solid evidence that we can contract the zombie virus through consumption. So if you were interested in eating a zombie, there's still hope. However, lab mice with human genes and monkies were able to contract it, and other animals can get through the passage of bodily fluids. So when I say there's no solid evidence, all that really means is that no humans have turned into zombies YET. Up until a couple hours ago, most of us didn't believe in zombies, so anything is possible ...

Real talk: if you handle deer meat because you're a hunter or butcher, these are the official recommendations from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

Just don't mess with zombie deer. You don't even want to shoot these zombies in the head. If a deer looks like it has chronic wasting disease (i.e., it's very bony, looks particularly vacant, and has lost all sense of coordination), don't touch it. Don't bring it home for your family, don't pet it and name it Rick -- just run. Preferably away.

If you have to touch it, wear protective gloves. Don't bring home the innards. Don't cut up any antlers or bones. Disinfect tools with chlorine bleach (or, you know, fire). And practice extra-good hygiene: WASH YOUR HANDS. If you've been hunting in Allegheny County, the CDC strongly suggests you bring in your game for testing.

Zombie disease is spreading throughout the deer population, so let's be smart and not allow other animals, more deer, or ourselves to get infected with chronic wasting disease. We don't need the earth plagued by violent, walking skeletons.

Still terrified? Search for answers in the American zombie canon -- see also, I Am Legend, The Walking Dead, World War Z (the book, not the movie -- Brad Pitt can't save you now!), and any other zombie literature you can safely get your washed, gloved hands on.

Have you had any run-ins with zombie animals? Share your harrowing experiences with us in the comments below!

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