Apocalypse, Cataclysm & Mega-Disaster - Past and Future

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Financial apocalypse?

If credit ceased, the entire world would stop spinning. For all of the digital money, there's hardly enough paper to go around. It'd trickle down. The factories would stop producing, the truck drivers would stop driving, the pilots stop flying; before you know it, every supermarket is out of food; electricity, water, and waste disposal stop, and the world is off the power grid.

But that's the worst case scenario. As shown by 2008, the only way credit would cease is if every major bank would fail without a bailout. And it'd take probably 10-20 days for the world to basically shut down, with every service slowly shutting down.
 

Dotini

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Financial apocalypse?

If credit ceased, the entire world would stop spinning. For all of the digital money, there's hardly enough paper to go around. It'd trickle down. The factories would stop producing, the truck drivers would stop driving, the pilots stop flying; before you know it, every supermarket is out of food; electricity, water, and waste disposal stop, and the world is off the power grid.

But that's the worst case scenario. As shown by 2008, the only way credit would cease is if every major bank would fail without a bailout. And it'd take probably 10-20 days for the world to basically shut down, with every service slowly shutting down.
Would a shut down of the electric grid create a similar effect? Suppose a Carrington Event sort of solar storm fried the large transformers over the entire continent of North America, and it would take maybe two years to replace them all.
 
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Would a shut down of the electric grid create a similar effect? Suppose a Carrington Event sort of solar storm fried the large transformers over the entire continent of North America, and it would take maybe two years to replace them all.

Probably.
 
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What about the situation where the Sun creates an outburst that affects electricity and makes electrical devices combust?

From what I heard ever since we have advanced in technology, the Sun did this twice, first time technology was small and limited to stuff like telephones, the second time was recently but it was on the other side of the world.

Makes me a bit nervous about what would happen if the Sun hits us with the way we are now with technology.
 

Michael88

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What about the situation where the Sun creates an outburst that affects electricity and makes electrical devices combust?

From what I heard ever since we have advanced in technology, the Sun did this twice, first time technology was small and limited to stuff like telephones, the second time was recently but it was on the other side of the world.

Makes me a bit nervous about what would happen if the Sun hits us with the way we are now with technology.

It is a real threat. A coronal mass ejection happened in the 1880's, it was so big there was aurora borialis visible all around the world. So many charged particle reached the earth's surface that the steel telegraph lines threw sparks like Christmas sparklers.

If that happened today all transistors and transformer would be fried to death, the entire electric infra structure would collapse and with it the industry. Only pre-70's cars would keep running. Only military vehicles and computers in military bunkers would keep running, they're shielded from those charged particles. Transformers are expensive and not easy to replace, thee's not exactly thousands of spare transformers stored in warehouses.
According to a documentary I watched about this very topic, a recovery from this catastrophe would take decades, large parts of the western would would be without electricity for many years and billions of people would die.

Theoretically this could also happen by an atomic blast in the atmosphere, as a first strike weapon.

If that happened people would have to basically live like the Amish.
 
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It is a real threat. A coronal mass ejection happened in the 1880's, it was so big there was aurora borialis visible all around the world. So many charged particle reached the earth's surface that the steel telegraph lines threw sparks like Christmas sparklers.

If that happened today all transistors and transformer would be fried to death, the entire electric infra structure would collapse and with it the industry. Only pre-70's cars would keep running. Only military vehicles and computers in military bunkers would keep running, they're shielded from those charged particles. Transformers are expensive and not easy to replace, thee's not exactly thousands of spare transformers stored in warehouses.
According to a documentary I watched about this very topic, a recovery from this catastrophe would take decades, large parts of the western would would be without electricity for many years and billions of people would die.

Theoretically this could also happen by an atomic blast in the atmosphere, as a first strike weapon.

If that happened people would have to basically live like the Amish.

So would all planes in the at the time would lose their flying instruments and drop to the ground like flies? :scared:
 

Dotini

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So would all planes in the at the time would lose their flying instruments and drop to the ground like flies? :scared:
Probably only a portion of the globe and not the entirety would be affected by a new Carrington Event. And some planes are probably hardened against EMP events, which again would be localized to a region or continent.
 

BobK

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So would all planes in the at the time would lose their flying instruments and drop to the ground like flies? :scared:
Any plane with a glass cockpit will lose its instrumentation, yes. A plane with "steam gauges" will have less of a problem because the altimeter, airspeed indicator and so on work by mechanically measuring things like air pressure. Airliners are supposed to have sufficient backup systems that if the electrics go out completely the control surfaces can still be used. Non-diesel piston engines will likely fail. Pretty much all conventional aircraft can glide to some extent at least so they'd have a chance of getting down safely but don't bet the farm on it. Helicopters, well....
 

TB

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(Still no good for helicopters though :ill: )
You just have to time it properly!

The quote is from here but it reads like an Onion article.
The specially designed ejection seat achieves a maximum velocity of Mach 19 - fast enough to pass through the blades in 0.002 seconds. "That speed is a little hard on the pilots, but helicopter pilots are a tough bunch, so we figure they can handle it."
:lol:
 

Dotini

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The following article and science paper have implications for "coherent catastrophism" on several fields of academic study.

Science
Ancient carvings show comet hit Earth and triggered mini ice age
New Scientist Fri, Apr 21 1:00 AM PDT
15117372-1.jpg



Alistair Coombs/PA Wire

By New Scientist staff and Press Association

Ancient symbols carved into stone at an archaeological site in Turkey tell the story of a devastating comet impact that triggered a mini ice age more than 13,000 years ago.

Evidence from the carvings, made on a pillar known as the Vulture Stone, suggests that a swarm of comet fragments hit the Earth in around 11000 BC.

One image of a headless man is thought to symbolise human disaster and extensive loss of life.

The site is at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, which experts now believe may have been an ancient observatory.

Computer software was used to match carvings of animals – interpreted as astronomical symbols – to patterns of stars and pinpoint the event to 10950 BC.

Other evidence for the impact from a Greenland ice core suggests roughly the same time frame.

The cataclysm ushered in a cold climate lasting 1,000 years and is likely to have resulted from the break-up of a giant comet in the inner solar system.

‘Worst day in history’
“It appears Gobekli Tepe was, among other things, an observatory for monitoring the night sky,” says lead researcher Martin Sweatman, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering.

“One of its pillars seems to have served as a memorial to this devastating event – probably the worst day in history since the end of the Ice Age.”

The carvings appear to have remained important to the people of Gobekli Tepe for millennia, indicating an event that had a very serious and long-lasting impact, say the scientists.

A number of the pillar symbols suggest that long-term changes in the Earth’s rotational axis were recorded by the early astronomers using an early form of writing.

The discovery also supports the theory that Earth experiences times when comet strikes are more likely, due to the planet’s orbit intersecting with rings of cometary fragments.

Journal reference: Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.400780


http://maajournal.com/Issues/2017/Vol17-1/Sweatman and Tsikritsis 17(1).pdf
 
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TenEightyOne

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It's amusing see Graham Hancock, "tin-foil-hat" author of books on magic, ancient mysteries and catastrophism, being given credit for what is just now being recognized as science and history.

It's a fascinating story, here's the journal article... I haven't read it yet and I have a chicken to pluck... I'll look forward to reporting back :)

EDIT: Hancock's 2015 theories surely seem built on the works cited by Sweatman that date from (at least) the 80s... maybe the Telegraph just liked the "joke science is as good as fact" angle? ;)
 

Dotini

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  •  Göbekli Tepe itself was used, in addition to whatever other functions it had, as an observatory, and this provides a reason for its construction on a hill-top.

  •  Existence of a date stamp in term of asterisms indicates knowledge of precession. Thus, it is very likely the people of Göbekli Tepe were making accurate measurements of Earth’s precession from around 10,950 BC onwards, and they had a good understanding of this process, at least from an observational perspective.

  •  To reach this level of understanding, and to have sufficient confidence in it to encode it in a large megalithic structure, which undoubtedly requires considerable effort and organisation, observations of precession had very likely been made for many centuries, and quite likely many millennia, before the construction of enclosure D. The general orientation of the structures towards the pole stars of earlier millennia reinforces this view, and suggests observations possibly as far back as 12,000 BC, or perhaps even earlier.

  •  The people of Göbekli Tepe considered it important to record the Earth’s precession over very long timescales in a very visible and enduring fashion. What was their motivation? Quite possibly, it was to communicate to potentially sceptical generations that followed that a great truth about the ordering of the world was known, and that this truth was important for their continued prosperity, and perhaps survival.


    ^Some of the implications mentioned in the journal.
Below, G. Hancock remarks,
 
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Dotini

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The article below mentions preparing for such a thing as a pole flip. I really don't know what that would actually entail.

Although I suppose, if GPS goes down, old-fashioned radar would still be required commercial aviation, - and land lines for telephonic communication?


Science

Earth’s Magnetic Poles Show Signs They’re About to Flip—Exposing Humans to Radiation and Planet-Wide Blackouts
Kastalia Medrano,Newsweek 20 hours ago

Historically, Earth’s North and South magnetic poles have flipped every 200,000 or 300,000 years—except right now, they haven’t flipped successfully for about 780,000 years. But the planet’s magnetic field is at long last showing signs of shifting. Although there’s no way to know yet for sure, it could be gearing up to flip once more, according to Undark Magazine. And that possibility is raising new speculation about what that means for planetary life.

Our planet’s magnetic field protects us from lethal levels of radiation from phenomena like solar rays. The dangerous particles never hit us directly, because upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere the magnetic field deflects them and forces them to move around, according to NASA. So the prospect of that field weakening, which it does when it’s getting ready to flip, is worrisome: It would leave us without sufficient protection.

5d5243b4bcbcc968f0b05f0618f520a4
The Earth’s North magnetic pole has been wandering at 10-year intervals from 1970 to 2020, as seen in this animation from the National Centers for Environmental Information. NOAA National Centers
for Environmental Information

The Earth’s magnetic field extends out from electrical currents created by the metals in its core, generating invisible lines that touch back down at the planet’s opposing magnetic poles. Cosmic radiation expert Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that the next pole reversal could likely render some areas of the planet unlivable, according to Undark.

That devastation could arrive through multiple avenues. The combination of powerful space particles, like unfiltered solar rays, cosmic rays and ultraviolet B rays (the stuff your sunscreen bottle warns you about), would smash through our battered ozone layer and lead us the way of the dinosaurs.


Our infrastructure wouldn’t fare much better. Since satellite grids are linked, once radiation eats through, more will follow, causing a cascading mass blackout, among other disasters, according to Undark.

Because we haven’t reached that point yet, scientists are using imagery from satellites to track the magnetic field’s movements. Since 2014, Swarm—a trio of satellites from the European Space Agency—has allowed researchers to study changes building at the Earth’s core, where the magnetic field is generated.

9bca26767a191dacd376a35593a28eac
Historically, Earth’s North and South magnetic poles have flipped every 200,000 or 300,000 years—except right now, they haven’t flipped successfully for about 780,000 years. But the planet’s magnetic field is at long last showing signs of shifting. NASA

Their observations reveal that both the molten iron and nickel are draining out of the Earth’s core. That kind of restless activity could indicate that the field is preparing to flip, according to Undark. Protective measures could include building more radiation-fortified satellites, plus shoring up ones that are already operational, according to the International Business Times.

Not all of the Earth’s polarity reversal attempts are successful; the poles last put out a botched effort around 40,000 years ago, according to Futurism. And scientists have yet to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between pole reversals and mass extinctions.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. We might not know when the poles will finally complete their long-overdue switch, but we at least have the advantage of being able to prepare.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/earth-apos-magnetic-poles-show-185939488.html

 
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...Another thing that can wipe us all off the face of this beautiful but schizophrenic planet.

How wonderful.
 

Dotini

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Sometimes reality changes, and things get kinda wild for a while.

After all, it has happened many times before, so it happens over and over again.

Are we so uniquely important that time and the process of change itself should stop for us and us alone?
 

homeforsummer

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Sorry to drag up a year-old post, but reading through the thread this jumped out at me.
Only pre-70's cars would keep running.
I'm not a physicist, but how likely is it that in the event of strong electromagnetic radiation, the above would actually be the case?

My first thought is that the car's bodywork would act as a faraday cage in such a scenario - as it would if you were to send electricity through it directly like in that old episode of Top Gear - and protect the more vulnerable electronic components housed within.

If it weren't protected in such a manner, my other question is how likely it is that newer vehicles would be functionally affected more than older ones - since cars have had electrical components like batteries and electric starter motors for over a hundred years now. While they're still less electrically complex than modern vehicles, would there really be any kind of old/new car divide beyond which vehicles would be unaffected?
 

Dotini

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Sorry to drag up a year-old post, but reading through the thread this jumped out at me.

I'm not a physicist, but how likely is it that in the event of strong electromagnetic radiation, the above would actually be the case?

My first thought is that the car's bodywork would act as a faraday cage in such a scenario - as it would if you were to send electricity through it directly like in that old episode of Top Gear - and protect the more vulnerable electronic components housed within.

If it weren't protected in such a manner, my other question is how likely it is that newer vehicles would be functionally affected more than older ones - since cars have had electrical components like batteries and electric starter motors for over a hundred years now. While they're still less electrically complex than modern vehicles, would there really be any kind of old/new car divide beyond which vehicles would be unaffected?
...from a survivalist website
there are only a very few engine/vehicle types that could be considered EMP proof;
Steam engines,
Early diesel powered vehicles, with mechanical injection pumps & fuel distribution which use generators instead of alternators, and electromechanical voltage regulators,
Gasoline vehicles (typically pre 1960) that use points, carburetors, generators and electromechanical voltage regulators.

Modern diesels with alternators, electronic voltage regulation and mechanical injection pumps are probably a bit more EMP resistant than computer dependent automobile systems but I certainly would not consider them EMP proof.
 

Rallywagon

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Time for another rehash. I was listening to Joe Rogan talk to to Robert Schoch. Much of what they talked about had to do with the age and history of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. The cast being 3 hours long, that wasnt the only thing that was talked about. One of the topics they touched on was of course the younger dryas. Schoch by trade and degree is a geologist, during his time studying he made some observations about the events during the period that are a bit "counter culture" and goes against the idea that meteor strikes caused the mini ice age. some of the proofs that are in favor of a meteor strike also coincide with lightening strikes. Things such as those micro diamonds and the alike. His theory is that the sun toss out a few coronal mass ejections that hit the earth. These would have be on the order of magnitudes larger than any event we have experienced, to include the event in the late 1800's that roasted the newly built telegraph system that had been run around the US. That event was strong enough to have caused fires in switching stations. A mass ejection the size that Schoch theorizes would cause huge disruptions to normal weather patterns, charging the sky and causing global magnetic storms that thrashed the earth with lightening.
As it was relayed in the podcast, large events like these in the sun cause what is akin to after shocks from an earth quake. After the first large ejection or two, there would be decreasing bursts that flare out over the course of centuries, even millenia. This could give a sort of credence to Dotini's notion of Gobekli Tepe being an observatory. To survive, people would have had to flee to caves and under ground bunkers for the duration that the ejections where striking the atmosphere. The amount of radiation striking the surface would have been enough to kill a human in a week or so during these events. Sites like Gobekli Tepe could have been used to monitor current events and to watch for signs of another ejection striking the atmosphere.
Here is the time stamp in the podcast where they begin talking about it.
Edit:
So, as it turns out, we may have been living through a relatively calm period for the sun. If Schoch is correct, or rather, the astro physicists he is quoting are correct, then the sun has been picking up in activity. at the same time our magnetosphere is diminishing...
 

Dotini

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as it turns out, we may have been living through a relatively calm period for the sun. If Schoch is correct, or rather, the astro physicists he is quoting are correct, then the sun has been picking up in activity. at the same time our magnetosphere is diminishing...

Apropos of this, a new book discusses the potential for a civilization-ending EMP event, whether natural or man-made, and what must be done to prevent it.

U.S. Urged to Rapidly Prepare for Electromagnetic Pulse Attack
World War II-style Manhattan Project needed for electric infrastructure protection



Getty Images
BY: Bill Gertz
September 24, 2018 5:45 pm

The United States is vulnerable to a devastating electromagnetic pulse event caused by a high-altitude nuclear blast or solar superstorm, according to a recently published book.

Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst and author of the book EMP Manhattan Project, is urging the government to rapidly harden the U.S. electric power system against EMP similar to the three-year crash program to build the first atomic bomb in 1942.

"Today the United States and the world faces another existential threat—from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) catastrophe that can be caused by nature or man, and topple the technological pillars of modern electronic civilization," said Pry, who served on a congressional EMP commission in the early 2000s.

The book contains fresh assessments of the EMP threat produced by a more recent congressional commission last year that concluded the United States would suffer millions of deaths from a major EMP incident.

EMP was discovered in the 1960s during above-ground nuclear tests. The tests showed a nuclear blast created a pulse capable of disrupting or destroying electronic devices over large areas, in some cases over 1,000 miles away.

The latest EMP commission found the United States is confronted with "a present and continuing existential threat from naturally occurring and manmade electromagnetic pulse assault and related attacks on military and critical national infrastructures."
Manhattan-bookcover-232x300.jpg


An EMP event would produce an electric power outage over large areas of the country that could last for a year or longer.

Emergency systems, such as generators, also are vulnerable to damage from EMP.

EMP events would disable critical supply chains and plunge the entire country into living conditions similar to those of centuries ago prior the use of electric power.

"An extended blackout today could result in the death of a large fraction of the American people through the effects of societal collapse, disease, and starvation," the commission stated in its July 2017 report. "While national planning and preparation for such events could help mitigate the damage, few such actions are currently underway or even being contemplated."

William R. Graham, former head of the EMP commission, stated in a preface to the book that a nationwide electrical blackout of one year "could kill millions, perhaps prove fatal to most Americans, by starvation, disease, and societal collapse."

"EMP is a civilization killer," Graham said.

The book warns that China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are preparing to use EMP attacks combined with traditional military strikes and new cyber attacks in future conflicts.

The threat was highlighted by North Korea's announcement in state-run media in September 2017 that the country's thermonuclear device could be detonated at high altitude and produce "great destructive power … for superpowerful EMP attack."

North Korea is suspected of cooperating with Iran on EMP and warhead miniaturization technology.

China is known to be developing nonnuclear EMP bombs that would simulate the effects of EMP from a nuclear explosion.

Russia's EMP weapons program is said to include both strategic and tactical EMP arms, some of which reportedly are designed as antiaircraft weapons.

EMP and cyber attacks would impair the United States quickly and decisively by causing blackouts resulting from disabling large portions of the U.S. electric grid. The current grid includes three regional systems for generating and distributing electric power.

"Foreign adversaries may aptly consider nuclear EMP attack a weapon that can gravely damage the U.S. by striking at its technological Achilles Heel, without having to confront the U.S. military," the book states.


Pry blamed bureaucratic politics and government bungling for the fact that the most recent EMP commission report revealed that recommendations made by the earlier EMP panel in 2008 were never implemented.

"A new finding of the congressional EMP commission—that notes not a single recommendation of the original EMP commission has been implemented since 2008, a decade ago—is that the chief impediment to protecting the American people from EMP is not technology or cost, but the incompetence of the U.S. government," Pry said in a email to the Free Beacon.

"Bureaucratic politics has been the chief impediment," he added noting the Defense, Homeland Security, and Energy Departments as well as the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "have all failed in their duty to make EMP protection of life-sustaining critical infrastructures a high priority, and have failed to work together to achieve the necessary protection."

President Trump, however, has made dealing with EMP a priority.

"President Trump deserves high praise for being the first president to include EMP protection of the electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures in his new National Security Strategy," Pry said.

Congress passed the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act in 2016 directing Homeland Security to make plans to survive and recover from EMP a high priority.

"But Obama holdovers and the permanent Washington bureaucracy think they know better than the president, the Congress, and the EMP commission," Pry said. "Only in Washington do endless studies, meetings, and conferences on EMP count as action."

The Pentagon, Pry added, is holding up publication of several EMP commission reports that were ready for publication at the end of last year.

"What is needed is for President Trump to appoint an executive agent, as President Franklin Roosevelt did in General Lesley Groves to head the WWII Manhattan Project that invented the atomic bomb," Pry said.

The executive agent would be able to cut through federal bureaucratic roadblocks.

"Protecting against the worst threat—nuclear EMP attack—will also mitigate all lesser threats, including from solar storms, nonnuclear EMP weapons, worst-case cyber warfare, sabotage, and severe weather," he said.

Pry suggested that Trump could follow the example of President Dwight Eisenhower who personally oversaw development of the national highway system in the 1950s.

The cost of a high-priority counter-EMP program is relatively modest compared with the original Manhattan Project.

Pry estimates that the nuclear bomb project that required new technology and machines cost about $20 billion in current dollars.

The congressional EMP Commission calculated that the cost of hardening the national electric grid would be about $2 billion dollars.

Natural EMP can be caused by magnetic solar superstorms, like the Carrington Event in 1859, that if repeated today would cause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts, and damage to electric grids.

A nuclear EMP attack could be carried out with a single nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude or a few weapons set off 200 miles above earth.

The nuclear EMP blasts could be fired on long- or short-range missiles, a high-altitude jet strike, or even a high-altitude balloon.

"Russia, China, and North Korea now have the capability to conduct a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S.," the book states. "All have practiced or described contingency plans to do so."

Terrorist or other less-sophisticated adversaries also might use EMP if they were to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Other non-EMP threats to the U.S. electric grid include cyber attacks designed to cause blackouts and sabotage against extra-high-voltage transformers using rifles, explosives, or nonnuclear EMP or directed energy weapons.

Pry, who specialized in Moscow's nuclear war planning during 10 years at CIA, currently is executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a congressional advisory board.


This entry was posted in National Security

https://freebeacon.com/national-security/u-s-urged-rapidly-prepare-electromagnetic-pulse-attack/
 

Dotini

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Here we go with a zombie apocalypse story. Continental readers will recall the BSE apocalypse in '80s and '90s affecting Britain and Europe that cost billions to deal with.


"Zombie deer disease,” a mad cow-like infection spreading in the US, explained
A mad cow-like infectious disease that can turn the brains of deer, elk, and moose into “Swiss cheese.”
By Julia Belluz@juliaoftorontojulia.belluz@voxmedia.com Feb 21, 2019, 9:50am ESTSHARE
GettyImages_911536146.0.jpg

Officially known as chronic wasting disease, the illness is spread in deer, elk, and moose by prions, zombie-like pathogens that aren’t alive and can’t be killed.
Getty Images
A mad cow-like infectious disease that can turn the brains of deer, elk, and moose into “Swiss cheese” is spreading in at least 24 states — and some experts are warning that it could eventually make its way into humans.

Known as chronic wasting disease, the fatal progressive neurodegenerative illness was first identified in the 1960s. Like mad cow, the disease is spread by prions, the zombie-like pathogenic proteins that aren’t alive and can’t be killed. When they infect an animal, they eat away at its brain, causing a cascade of symptoms that resemble dementia and eventually lead to death. While the disease is still rare, researchers believe it’s more widespread than ever due, in part, to how humans trade deer and other hoofed mammals.

“What we’ve seen over the last few decades is that it’s slowly spreading in wild deer populations,” said Peter Larsen, an assistant professor in veterinary sciences at the University of Minnesota who has been studying the pathogen. It’s also spreading among captive deer, elk, and reindeer, which are transported around the country and overseas to hunting ranches, petting zoos, and Christmas-themed farms. That’s how the disease ended up in South Korea, Larsen said. (It’s been identified in Canada and Norway, too.)

When new outbreaks start, they are virtually impossible to contain because, unlike viruses and bacteria, prions can’t be killed. There’s also no good way to find them. So we’re talking about an indestructible, killer pathogen that could be lurking anywhere.

Researchers have long wondered whether the disease, like mad cow, can make the leap into humans. (Mad cow in people is known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.) Late last summer, we got a preliminary and frightening answer. In a paper published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers from Scotland and Canada showed via an experiment in a petri dish that prions from sick animals can indeed infect human cells.

Since then, there’s been no direct evidence of human disease, even in people who ate meat that later tested positive for the pathogenic prions. Still, the experimental research spurred Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, to compare chronic wasting disease to mad cow recently.

Osterholm, it turns out, also warned the British government of the risks of mad cow before hundreds of people were infected in the UK and around the world in the late 1990s. Sitting before a state committee in Minnesota on February 7, he called the chances of humans becoming infected with chronic wasting disease “probable” and “possible,” adding: “The number of human cases will be substantial and not isolated events.”

“We don’t want to find out 10 years from now,” Osterholm told Vox, “that we should have been doing something in 2019 but didn’t.”

According to Larsen, it’s not time to freak out, but he warned that this is a growing public health threat. People should not consume infected meat, he said, while also noting there’s actually no good way to know if meat is infected. “There is currently no way for people to rapidly test for prions in meat, on meat processing surfaces, or in live deer,” he said.

Let’s walk through what we know about this emerging infectious disease.

1) What is “zombie deer disease”?
Scientists don’t know where the name “zombie deer disease” emerged. Instead, they refer to chronic wasting disease, a fatal progressive neurodegenerative illness believed to affect deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. It was discovered in farmed deer in Colorado in the 1960s, and it’s been intriguing scientists ever since.

The disease is caused by prions, which are not viruses or bacteria. Prions are almost indestructible pathogenic proteins that trigger cells, particularly in the brain and spinal cord, to fold abnormally and start clumping. When that happens, the infected animals begin to develop an array of awful symptoms — dementia, hallucinations, and difficulty walking and eating. The animals eventually become wobbly and disoriented. Those symptoms worsen over time, and since there’s no cure, they always lead to death.

animal with chronic wasting disease can spread prions to other animals through direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids such as feces, saliva, blood, or urine. That means that the disease can spread if an infected deer is wounded, for example, and its blood touches an uninfected animal; or if a healthy animal comes into contact with soil, food, or water that’s been contaminated by a sick deer.

That’s not all, Larsen said. Because prions are so robust, they can survive in environments — farms, forests — for years, decades even. “So let’s say you have a deer with chronic wasting disease, and it started shedding [prions] in its urine, feces, saliva.” If that deer dies on the forest floor, the prions can survive and bind to soil, where plants soak them up. Those plants can then spread prions through their leaves, Larsen said.

“So it’s spreading in the wild, slowly. And every year, we see more and more cases of chronic wasting disease.”

3) How would it spread to people?
There have been no documented cases of chronic wasting disease in people, but researchers think it’s possible and becoming more likely, as infections become more prevalent in animals.


So far, the only evidence scientists have of spread beyond hoofed mammals, like deer, is indirect. In lab experiments, scientists have shown that the disease can spread in squirrel monkeys and mice that carry human genes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. In a yet-to-be-published study, macaques — a primate species that’s genetically similar to humans — that were fed infected meat contracted the disease.

Experiments are [also] being performed where researchers take environmental samples, like rocks or pieces of wood, that have [pathogenic] prions on them,” said Larsen. “They then place these contaminated objects in cages with transgenic hamsters and the hamsters develop the disease.”

In a recently published study, researchers found that chronic wasting disease prions infected human cells in a petri dish. But there’s another study tracking people who ate venison that had been exposed to chronic wasting disease in 2005, and so far, they’ve shown no symptoms. It’s possible they were exposed to a less virulent strain of the disease, or that the prions didn’t manage to infect human cells, or that the disease is still incubating in them, Larsen said. “The jury is still out on the dangers of human consumption.”

Even so, the CDC says the experimental studies “raise the concern that [chronic wasting disease] may pose a risk to people and suggest that it is important to prevent human exposures to [the disease].” The most likely way this could happen is if a person, such as a hunter, eats contaminated meat.

That brings us to another troubling fact about chronic wasting disease: “With a prion, you can’t [cook it off]. The temperatures needed to destroy it are far beyond what you can cook with,” Larsen said.

The only way to make prions noninfectious is by using lye, a strong alkaline solution that drastically changes the pH balance, and autoclaving — or pressure-treating them — at 270 degrees Fahrenheit. “Most people don’t have access to this approach,” Larsen said, and “the point is that it’s difficult to manage [infectious] prions in the environment because we don’t know exactly where they lurk.” That brings us to the next problem with this disease.

4) Where is zombie deer disease in the US?
Well, we only know where chronic wasting disease was. Deer can only be diagnosed after they’ve died (researchers need to access tissues that are deep in the animal’s brain, and to test those). But animals can carry the pathogens for years and not show any signs or symptoms. “That deer could go on a 40-mile trip, sprinkling [infected] prions in its feces or urine,” said Larsen. “If we go and say this is a [chronic wasting] deer on this point on the map, what you don’t see on that map is everywhere that deer has been in the last two years.”

As of January 2019, 251 counties in 24 states had reported chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer, the CDC reported. You can see them here:

Screen_Shot_2019_02_20_at_10.26.03_AM.png

Chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer, reported by US county, as of January 2019.
CDC
Again, though, researchers think the range of spread is much broader. The CDC has also noted that some states have better animal disease surveillance systems than others, so the current map may be more a reflection of where detection is strongest (and of past disease) than where the deadly prions are currently spreading in the US.

5) Can we stop the disease from spreading?
Since there’s no way to eradicate and cure the disease right now, researchers are recommending that states where it’s known to be spreading try to contain it by identifying sick animals.


Now, here’s another problem: The tools available to do that right now are very limited. The diagnostics for detecting the disease in animals are not always accurate, not all states have access to them, and, again, they can only confirm the presence of the infection in an animal after it’s already dead. It can also take days or weeks to get results. That means the disease may be on the move — or in meat people are eating — for a while before anyone knows it’s there.

“The real test we need is for deer that’s killed, so people know whether the meat you’re eating is infected,” Osterholm said.

Along with Osterholm, Jeremy Schefers, a veterinary diagnostician at the University of Minnesota, was recently entreating lawmakers in his state for research funding to develop better diagnostic tools and help scientists answer basic questions about chronic wasting disease. Here’s Schefers speaking to the Minnesota Post:

6) How can people protect animals and themselves?
Health officials are most concerned about the potential for hunters to be to exposed to the disease through animals carrying prions. So anyone who finds themselves hunting in areas where chronic wasting disease is known to spread should take the following precautions, according to the CDC:

  • No shooting, handling, or eating elk or deer that look unhealthy or “are acting strangely.”
  • When field-dressing (or removing the organs of) a hunted animal, wear latex or rubber gloves, avoid touching the animal’s organs — especially the brain and spinal cord tissues — and avoid using utensils that are also used at home.
  • Get deer or elk meat tested for prion disease before eating the meat. Yet the CDC also warns that since the diagnostic tools for the disease are still limited, “A negative test result does not guarantee that an individual animal is not infected” with chronic wasting disease, though it “may reduce your risk of exposure.”
  • When getting the meat commercially processed, ask the butcher if they handle and process multiple animals at one time (to avoid cross-contamination).
So what about consumers of game meat, like venison, and the restaurants that serve it? On that, Larsen didn’t have a comforting answer.

He advised that anyone who eats game meat, or a restaurant that serves game, ask about where the meat came from. And restaurants should be making sure their meat is free of the disease. Again, in practice, that’s not easy because of how long it takes to get results from diagnostic tests.

“If you’re a hunter, and shoot a deer to feed your family or sell, are you going to wait two weeks [for a test result]?” Larsen asked. “How do you keep the meat fresh?”

But while consumers might have the right to know whether their meat has been infected with the pathogenic prions, there’s currently no efficient way to get an answer.

“Humans have interacted with deer for centuries,” Larsen said, “for food, sport, or simply watching them in the wild.” Now, that tradition is “under attack now because of this pathogen.”


https://www.vox.com/2019/2/21/18233227/zombie-deer-disease-map