One county in Pennsylvania is reporting an epidemic of a disease that can kill deer and other wild cervids. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 30 to 40 deer were discovered dead during the week of September 8 in the vicinity of State Game Lands 214 in the Crawford County villages of North Shenango and Sadsbury.
Hemorrhagic illness claimed the lives of all the deer. The Department of Environment Conservation is currently monitoring an outbreak of EHD affecting deer in multiple counties.
White-tailed deer are susceptible to the viral illness known as Epizootic Haemorrhagic Sickness, which is spread by biting midges. Human infection is not brought on by midge bites or contact with deer, and the disease is not passed from one deer to another through such interaction.
Epidemics of EHD typically occur in the late summer and early fall of each year. Since viruses cannot survive in dead animals for an extended period of time, the dead deer cannot infect other animals. Cattle can become infected with specific EHD strains.
Symptoms And Diagnosis
External EHD symptoms in deer include fever, tiny scars or haemorrhages around the mouth and nostrils, and enlargement of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. EHD-affected deer could seem drained or worn out. When EHD initially manifests symptoms, which can take between 2 and 10 days, deer frequently pass away within 36 hours. Deers usually seek out water sources when afflicted, and their carcasses are frequently discovered in or close to water. EHD-affected deer appear to bloat and age rapidly. Within a narrow space, there are numerous sick or dead deer.
When there are outbreaks, it is crucial to establish the diagnosis because EHD resembles other severe but uncommon diseases of domestic ruminants, such as Blue Tongue and Foot and Mouth Disease. To confirm the sickness, tissues from dead deer are examined by necropsy (animal autopsy) and analyzed for viral DNA.
EHD can be verified in a laboratory using immunofluorescence and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests on tissues or blood. EHD is not curable and cannot be prevented. While EHD epidemics can significantly reduce the number of deer in a local population, they typically have little long-term impact on broader deer populations.
Dead deer don’t spread EHD to other animals or people, so they don’t need to be removed from the environment. DEC does not remove deceased deer; however, landowners should follow standard safety procedures, including wearing gloves and washing their hands afterward, if they must dispose of or move a dead deer.
Deer can be carried from tiny suburban and rural areas to a location where they won’t interfere with human activity so they can be scavenged and decomposed. Deer carcasses may need to be disposed of in a landfill in densely populated suburban and urban areas; occasionally, nuisance wildlife control operators will do it for a fee.
The Game Commission claims the virus strains have had no appreciable detrimental effects, and local populations recover swiftly from an outbreak. HD epidemics do not significantly affect deer populations over the long term, but deer mortality can be high in some localized places. It urges the public to stay a safe distance and avoid handling wildlife unless they are engaged in hunting or trapping, even if the disease does not currently threaten people or pets.
Although DEC usually advises against harvesting or eating any animal that appears sick or infected, proper cooking will effectively eradicate the virus for hunters. The Game Commission should be notified if two or more dead deer are discovered nearby simultaneously.
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