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Deadly Virus Infects Indiana Deer

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, September 12, 2007 (ENS) - A viral disease called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, EHD, appears to be infecting, and often killing, wild white-tailed deer in Indiana.

There is no known effective treatment or control of this disease, but it is not normally found in domestic animals, and is not transmissible to humans.

Cases have been observed that are consistent with EHD in Davies, Dubois, Gibson, Perry, Pike, Spencer and Warrick counties. Initial investigations by state biologists with the Department of Natural Resources point to EHD, which is transmitted by small flying insects called biting midges.

The biologists have submitted tissue samples to the Purdue Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab for confirmation.

This disease, characterized by extensive hemorrhages, has affected in deer in the northern United States and southern Canada.

Dr. Bret Marsh, state veterinarian for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, says 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, he said.

"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," said Dr. Marsh.

With hunting season coming up, Indiana deer hunters are asked to briefly observe deer they intend to take. If the deer's posture or behavior indicates the animal may be sick, Dr. Marsh says, "Don't take it."

People are not at risk from direct exposure to or consumption of an EHD infected deer but Marsh says 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, he says.

EHD usually affects local deer populations until the first hard frost, which kills the biting midges that spread the disease. The last major EHD outbreak in the state occurred in southern Indiana in fall 1996.

The first occurrence and identification of EHD occurred in 1955 when several hundred white-tailed deer died in New Jersey and in Michigan.

Since these initial confirmed outbreaks of EHD, the disease has been documented in white-tailed deer in North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Alberta, Canada.

Missouri and Nebraska have experienced periodic outbreaks of the disease, while suspected EHD outbreaks have occurred in Washington, Iowa and British Columbia.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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