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INDIANAPOLIS (14 September 2007)-A viral disease called epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) appears to be infecting, and often killing, wild white-tailed deer in Indiana. EHD is not normally found in domestic animals, and is not transmissible to humans.
Cases have been observed that are consistent with EHD throughout Indiana, particularly in the southern-most third of the state. Initial investigations by DNR biologists point to EHD, which is transmitted by small flying insects called biting midges. Some of these cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing, the only way to definitively determine the cause of the disease.
"EHD causes severe, flu-like symptoms in the deer, including a high fever. This causes infected deer to seek open water in streams or ponds to cool off. Many of the reported dead deer were found near water," said Dr. Bret D. Marsh, State Veterinarian for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH). "Sick deer may lose their appetite, coordination and their fear of normal dangers. Animals become dehydrated and progressively weaker, with mouth and eye tissue often showing a rosy or bluish color. A significant percentage of deer that contract EHD die within one day to three days."
With hunting season just around the corner, Indiana deer hunters are asked to observe deer they intend to take for a brief time. If the deer's posture or behavior indicates the animal may be sick, don't take it. People are not at risk from direct exposure to or consumption of an EHD-infected deer. Hunters should use common sense when cleaning and preparing any deer: Never kill or eat a sick deer; use rubber gloves when field-dressing; be sure meat is cooked thoroughly to kill any bacteria or organisms that may be present.
Periodically, EHD can spill over into the cattle population or to domestic cervid herds. In these cases, the livestock owner who sees clinical signs consistent with the disease should contact his/her private veterinary practitioner. Because EHD's appearance is so similar to a number of other, serious infections, blood and tissue samples must be submitted to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis and rule out the possibility of another disease of concern.
EHD usually affects local deer populations until the first hard frost, which kills the biting midges that spread the disease. The last major Hoosier EHD outbreak occurred in southern Indiana in fall 1996.
For more information or to report a possibly infected deer, visit DNR's website at: www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/huntguide1/hunting1.htm