The 2007 outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease appears to be expanding its range, with new reports of the fatal deer malady last week in southern portions of Illinois and Ohio. Some wildlife biologists in the mid-South are already calling the EHD outbreak there the worst in decades.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture reports that EHD was confirmed in captive deer herds in Franklin and Randolph counties and was the suspected cause of death in wild deer in at least 28 counties throughout central and southern Illinois.
The outbreak of EHD in particular drought-affected areas is so severe this year that it has been blamed for the deaths of numerous cattle—which is highly unusual, according to those who track such things. The Ohio Department of Agriculture says at least two Ohio cattle herds have been impacted.
The Shelbyville (Ky.) Sentinel reports that cattle in the Bluegrass State are also confirmed fatalities of EHD.
Kentucky wildlife biologist Danny Watson told the Sentinel that cattle in the Green River area have succumbed to EHD in recent days. Watson said 939 deer from 50 Kentucky counties are confirmed victims of EHD, though he believes many times that have actually died.
When all is said and done, Watson believes EHD could impact as much as 25 percent of the state’s total deer herd this year.
“I’ve been here since 1986 and this is the worst I’ve seen,” Watson said. “We’ve never documented this many counties dealing with it.”
Watson’s sentiments are being echoed by wildlife folks farther to the south, as well. My good friend Doug Markham, information officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, dropped me an email over the weekend saying it’s as bad as he’s ever seen it in his 20 years with the agency.
Some especially hard-hit areas of the Volunteer State could lose half their deer to EHD this year, Markham speculated.
As reported here in recent weeks, EHD, which is known colloquially as blue tongue, is a common deer disease contracted by gnat-like biting midges. Deer can die within five to ten days after being bitten, but the disease is not always fatal.
Symptoms of the disease include a high fever and swelling of tissues around the eyes and mouth area, often causing a rosy or bluish color. Sick deer often lose their appetite, coordination and their fear of normal dangers.
EHD is not transmittable to humans nor does the meat from an infected animal pose any health risk.