IMPORTANT QDMA MEMBER ALERT
Hemorrhagic disease outbreak being tracked by
Southeastern cooperative wildlife disease study
The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) at the University of Georgia is currently tracking an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease in whitetails in the eastern United States that is associated with this year’s widespread drought. The SCWDS manual states, “Hemorrhagic disease is by far the most important endemic infectious disease of white-tailed deer in the Southeast. The disease occurs annually, but its distribution and severity of occurrence are highly variable. Occurrence may involve only a very few scattered, mild cases or may appear as dramatic, highly visible outbreaks. Neither EHD nor blue tongue viruses are infectious for humans.” Hemorrhagic disease is a common problem in late summer, but this year’s outbreak appears to be severe.
‘We usually see most of our cases in September and October. We picked up our first case on July 27 this year, and right now we have positive cases from Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Indiana”, said Dr. David Stallknecht with SCWDS. “We have a lot more pending cases, too. It looks like it‚s going to be a bad year, and every single confirmed case we have so far is from an area that‚s in a drought.”
Hemorrhagic disease is caused by bluetongue virus (BTV) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV), which are spread by blood-sucking midges, known as „gnats‰ or „no-see-ums.‰ The gnats are abundant in late summer, and they thrive in dry, hot conditions, which explains the increased problem with hemorrhagic disease this summer. Dr. Stallknecht said that the EHDV-2 strain, a common strain of virus in the Southeast, is responsible for all of the positive cases so far this year.
The number of local deer that ultimately die during an outbreak depends on a number of factors, including the abundance of midges, the particular strain of the virus, and how much natural immunity is present in the deer population. In areas where hemorrhagic disease outbreaks are less common such as the North and West, there is less immunity, and outbreaks can take a heavier toll.
Deer infected with a hemorrhagic disease virus may appear lame or lose their fear of humans; swelling of the head, neck and tongue may be apparent, as well as excessive salivation. Deer managers and hunters may locate dead or dying deer near water sources, as the fever associated with infection leads to intense thirst. A varying percentage of deer in specific outbreaks will survive the infection, and if harvested in early fall by hunters, they usually exhibit „sloughing‰ or cracked hooves and healing ulcers on the tongue and lining of the mouth.
If you locate a dead or dying deer where you hunt and you suspect disease of any kind, contact your state wildlife agency as soon as possible.