In New Jersey, on the alert for Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in deer

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife is asking those who are out in the fields and woods of New Jersey at this time of year to be alert for deer that may be affected by Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and to report any suspected cases to the Division.

Hemorrhagic Disease (HD) is a common viral disease in deer that is transmitted by biting midges belonging to the genus Culiocoides. Hemorrhagic disease may be caused by one of two closely related viruses, including Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease virus (EHD) or Bluetongue Virus (BT).

Hemorrhagic disease outbreaks in New Jersey typically occur in August through October and end with the first significant frost, which kills the midges. Seven EHD outbreaks have occurred in various parts of New Jersey since 1955, and the first documented case of BT occurred in deer in 2014.

Symptoms of HD in deer may include difficulty standing, drooling, lethargy, respiratory distress, emitting foam from the mouth or nose, and swelling of the face, tongue, and neck. Because the disease causes fever, sick or dead deer are often seen in or near water, after drinking or attempting to cool off. Affected deer may also show reduced activity, loss of appetite and develop ulcerations on their tongue.

Clinical signs of EHD may be variable depending on the course of the disease, which may be acute or chronic. As the name implies, the virus (BT and EHD) causes damage to the blood vessels causing hemorrhage within the internal organs. Survivors of the infection or chronically infected individuals may become emaciated in the winter and may exhibit growth interruption or cracks in the hooves.

Deer exhibiting any of the above mentioned signs in late summer and fall, or dead deer observed in or near water should be reported to the Bureau of Wildlife Management (Northern Region deer biologist, Jodi Powers, 609-259-6965; Southern Region deer biologist, Joe Leskie, 609-748-2065).

HD is not a public health issue. Neither EHD nor BT viruses can be transmitted to people, and humans are not at risk by handling infected deer, being bitten by infected midges, or eating infected deer meat – though the Division of Fish and Wildlife strongly advises against consuming meat from any game animal that appears ill.

EHD virus rarely infects domestic animals, while BT is a known disease of domestic animals such as sheep, cattle, goats, and even domestic dogs. To date, no cases of livestock illness related to BT have been reported. People suspecting HD in domestic animals should have them tested for the virus.

Additional information may be obtained from the State Veterinarian’s Office at 609-292-3965. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL) can assist in diagnosing suspected BT cases by offering testing and necropsy services. The AHDL may be contacted by calling (609) 406-6999 or e-mailing jerseyvetlab@ag.state.nj.us.

More information about the tests offered can be found at www.jerseyvetlab.nj.gov

For more information, on EHD in deer in New Jersey, click here. For more on hemorrhagic disease in white-tailed deer, click here.

— New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife

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