Across the U.S., a mysterious disease is killing deer, slowly. It eats holes in their brains and the animal wastes away. The process can take months, even years. But once the animal dies the disease lives on.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, isn’t new but the threat to Georgia is. New research suggests the mad cow disease-like malady could impact monkeys. The threat to humans is unknown.

“It’s a slow and cryptic disease and we don’t really know the long-term effects of it on the deer population,” said Georgia DNR’s deer biologist, Charlie Killmaster.  Killmaster explained there is no blood test for CWD because it attacks the nervous system. They test for it by taking the lymph nodes from the neck of a dead deer.

The DNR spot-checks deer killed by hunters and brought to processing facilities across the state. Killmaster said the unknown impacts of the disease mean wildlife managers are on guard. The disease has not been spotted in Georgia. Killmaster said hunters need to be aware of the areas testing positive for CWD.

“It’s still safe to consume venison but you have to be aware of these potential risk factors in an area that has chronic wasting disease,” Killmaster said.