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Public Asked to Be Alert for EHD in Deer


August 14, 2015

The NJDEP 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.

EHD is a common viral disease in deer that is contracted from the bite of a species of midge known as Culiocoides sonorensis. New Jersey has experienced seven outbreaks of EHD since 1955. In 2014 a closely related disease, Bluetongue (BT), was detected for the first time in deer in New Jersey.

The clinical signs of disease caused by the BT and EHD viruses are identical, and the two can only be differentiated by testing and virus isolation. Outbreaks typically begin in August; symptoms of EHD or BT in deer may include difficulty standing, drooling, and/or emitting foam from the mouth or nose. Deer with any of those symptoms, as well as dead deer with no apparent wounds observed in or near water, should be reported to any one of the following numbers:

Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics:
   Bill Stansley, 908-236-2118

Bureau of Wildlife Management:
   Deer Project Leader - Dan Roberts, 609-259-6962
   Northern Region Deer Biologist - Jodi Powers, 609-259-6965
   Southern Region Deer Biologist - Joe Leskie, 609-748-2065

Neither BT nor EHD is a public health issue. They cannot 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.

The EHD virus can infect livestock but only rarely causes a mild disease in cattle. BT is a disease of concern in ruminant livestock (i.e. sheep, llama, alpaca, goats, and cows). It causes a similar disease in all ruminants with variable mortality rates depending on virus strain and livestock species affected.

Effects are usually most severe in improved sheep breeds (e.g. fine wool and mutton breeds). Clinical signs include but are not limited to fever, listlessness, depression, edema and congestion of mouth, nose, eyes, and coronary bands, resulting in "sore mouth" and lameness. Swelling of the tongue may result in "blue tongue". Recovered animals may be viremic and act as carriers for an extended period after recovery.

People suspecting EHD or BT in cattle should test their animals and can seek information from the State Veterinarian's Office at 609-292-3965. Dogs and cats are not affected by EHD or BT viruses.

For more information:
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Deer in New Jersey (Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics) (Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study)

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Last Updated: August 14, 2015