FRANKFORT — Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease has been reported in white-tailed deer in several east Kentucky counties. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources received confirmation from the Georgia- based Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Wednesday morning of a Kentucky deer with a strain of the disease.
“Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease is not transmittable to people or pets,” Dr. Iga Stasiak, state wildlife veterinarian for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “However, we always recommend that hunters avoid eating venison from deer that were obviously sick.”
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a viral disease transmitted to deer through the bite of a midge or gnat. The disease has been present in the United States for more than 60 years. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife receives and confirms EHD deer mortalities sporadically, with a small number of mortalities each year. Larger outbreaks tend occur every five to seven years. Outbreaks cease at the first frost, which kills the biting bugs.
Gabe Jenkins, big game coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said small outbreaks of EHD also have been reported in the mountainous areas of Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is receiving a growing number of suspected cases.
“We’re monitoring this situation closely,” Jenkins said. “If we receive little rain between now and the first frost, the numbers could increase because deer are drawn to water. Midges breed along mud banks, so drought would concentrate the deer around larger bodies of water and make them more susceptible to infection.”
Deer can exhibit signs of illness within 24 to 72 hours after receiving a bite from an infected midge. Infected deer may appear sluggish and unresponsive to humans. EHD causes dehydration and fever in deer, which causes the animals to seek water. Infected deer are often found dead near bodies of water. Kentucky last had significant outbreaks of EHD in 2007 and 2012.
Anyone who finds a sick deer or a deer they suspect may have died from EHD is encouraged to report the finding to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The department staffs a toll-free number weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The number is 800-858-1549.
Reports can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Reports should include your name, contact information, county and date the deer was found, number of deer found and whether the deer is sick or recently deceased.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is also urging hunters to report any observations of deer that appear to have died of natural causes.
EHD primarily affects white-tailed deer and is most noticeable during the late summer and early fall (August to October). For more information on this disease, visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov and search under the keyword, “EHD.”