SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri Department Conservation (MDC) staff in southwest Missouri are looking for signs of a deer disease that periodically appears at this time of year. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is present in deer populations throughout the central and southeastern U.S. and periodically appears in Missouri.
EHD can be fatal to deer and can have a significant impact on local deer populations. Not much can be done to stop the disease from running its course through local whitetail populations, but positive identification of EHD-infected deer can help biologists determine impacts the disease has had on deer numbers in specific areas.
EHD is transmitted by biting flies, known as midges, that hatch at muddy areas near water. EHD outbreaks tend to occur from August to September and commonly appear during drought conditions when deer seek water at muddy areas where they are likely to come in contact with midges.
Some infected deer may not show obvious symptoms while others may die in one to three days. Typical symptoms include swollen neck, tongue or eyelids, excessive salivation, deformed growth of hooves and emaciation. Because EHD-infected deer are feverish, they are often found near water.
EHD has similarities to bluetongue, but the two are from genetically distinct viruses. EHD isn’t always fatal to deer. EHD does not infect humans. Handling and consuming meat from deer that have recovered from the disease pose no health hazard. However, consumption of meat from any animal that is in a noticeable or advanced diseased condition is not advised.
Though EHD is not always fatal for deer, losses in some past outbreaks have been significant. Biologists speculate that as much as 20 percent of some localized deer populations were lost during past outbreaks in Missouri.
There are several clinical signs of EHD, but the only way to get a confirmed diagnosis is to collect tissue samples from sick or freshly dead deer. With the current high temperatures, MDC wildlife officials need to hear reports of the sick or dead deer as soon as possible. Consequently, people who observe sick deer or find dead deer that are still fresh should report the sightings to MDC's Southwest Regional Office in Springfield at 417-895-6880. Reports can also be e-mailed to Tim.Russell@mdc.mo.gov.