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Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease

October 1st, 2007

A severe case of Epizootic Hermorrhagic Disease (EHD) has hit several counties within West Virginia and several other surrounding states lately.  This disease is quite destructive to the deer herd, since it kills any animal that contracts the disease.  This disease is a naturally occurring disease in deer, and also in some livestock (including sheep and cattle).  However, some years have an “outbreak” of the disease, which affects animal numbers significantly. 

This disease is spread by the bite of gnats, and therefore is particularly destructive near water sources.  Areas that are near rivers, ponds or lakes have had particularly high incident of EHD outbreaks.  The disease is fairly fast acting, killing a deer within 5-10 days of the first sign of symptoms.  Symptoms include loss of appetite, loss of fear of humans, growing progressively weaker, excessively salavating, and becoming unconscious.  Some deer die withing 36 hours of exhibiting symptoms.

Experts are quick to point out that this disease is not in any way related to Cronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  There is no need to worry about the virus being passed from deer to humans, or to other animals.  It is only passed through the bite of gnats.  Cattle do not contract the disease from deer, but rather both deer and cattle in the same area are bitten by infected gnats.

The good news is that the virus is usually curtailed at the first frost.  Generally, the gnats that are infected by the virus are killed by the frost, and therefore are not a threat to bite deer and livestock.  Fortunately, that first frost comes typically before any hunting seasons open, so there will be no scares about contracting the disease from the deer (though it seems that humans cannot be infected from infected deer meat).

Counties in WV that have been affected include:  Hancock, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia and Wayne counties.  Other states to report infections include:  Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

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