Several E.T. deer die due to EHD

By Joe Bowling
Outdoors Editor

   Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is thought to have recently caused the death of several deer scattered across six counties in East Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
   "Thus far, we have had around 150 dead deer reported," said Dan Gibbs, TWRA's Region 1V deer biologist. "We have sent three of the deer to Athens, Georgia for testing. A deer in Grainger County tested positive for EHD. One from Claiborne County tested negative and I am waiting on the results from a deer found in Cocke County."
   Dead deer have been reported from Claiborne (70+), Cocke (1), Grainger (1), Greene (70+), and Jefferson (5), and Sullivan (10-15). Generally when the deer are found, they have been dead for several days.
   "In order to test for EHD, the deer must be collected within 24 hours of death, " said Gibbs. "This makes it difficult to test most of the deer that have been found."
   EHD is a virus spread from deer to deer by a biting midge fly (gnat) in the genus Cullicoides. It is not spread from deer to deer by direct contact of the animals. The disease causes excessive hemorrhaging and deterioration of blood vessels, especially in vital organs. Signs of the disease are uncontrollable salivation, loss of muscle coordination, and lack of awareness. Dead deer will usually be found near water.
   Typically the disease occurs in late summer or early fall," said Gibbs. "It is something that occurs fairly randomly and can show up anywhere. Sometimes you will find a single deer and sometimes it can be quite dramatic, killing several deer."
   The disease is not always fatal. Many deer get the virus and survive. EHD is not known to have a detrimental effect on domestic animals. Also, EHD has never been known to be transmitted to humans through biting midges, contact with infected deer, or eating meat from an infected animal.
   Although the virus is not infectious to humans, any sick deer can develop secondary infections and it is not recommended to consume visibly sick deer.
   The first good frost will put an end to the midges and will stop the spread of the disease.