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Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Deer in New Jersey

Public Asked to Be Alert for EHD in Deer - 8/13/14

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a common viral disease in deer that is transmitted by biting midges belonging to the genus Culiocoides. EHD outbreaks in New Jersey typically occur in August through October and end with the onset of colder weather, which kills the midges. Seven EHD outbreaks have occurred in various parts of New Jersey since 1955 (see Figure below).

Outbreaks in 1955, 1975 and 1999 were caused by the EHD serotype 1 virus, while outbreaks in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 were caused by the EHD serotype 2 virus. The serotype 2 virus occurs every year in parts of the southern U.S., and its recent occurrences in New Jersey raise concern that it may persist and occur more frequently here as well.

Clinical signs of EHD can be highly variable. EHD may have a very short course (peracute), a longer period of clinical disease (acute) or a protracted course (chronic). Deer with the peracute form of the disease may die within 1-3 days of the onset. They may become depressed, feverish and have difficulty breathing. They may also develop swelling of the head, neck, tongue or eyelids. Feverish deer may go to water to drink or attempt to cool off.

Most deer that are sick will develop the acute form of the disease and live somewhat longer. In addition to the clinical signs described above, they may also become lame, lose their appetite and reduce their activity. They may also develop erosions or ulcerations on the tongue or mouth. A small percentage of animals develop the chronic form of the disease and survive for weeks or months. Such animals may become emaciated in the winter and show growth interruption or peeling of the hoofs.

EHD is not a public health issue. It 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. People suspecting this disease 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 virus.

Deer exhibiting signs of EHD in late summer and fall, such as difficulty standing, drooling, emitting foam from the mouth or nose, or 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:
   Northern Region - Carole Stanko or Dan Roberts, 908-735-7040
   Central Region - Jodi Powers, 609-259-6965
   Southern Region - Joe Leskie, 609-748-2043

Maps showing EHD outbreaks in NJ
Dark colors on the map indicate counties where EHD was confirmed by virus isolation.
Light colors indicate counties where there were suspected cases that were not confirmed.
Blue indicates infections cause by EHD serotype 1 virus and red indicates infections by EHD serotype 2 virus.

For more information on EHD see:
Hemorrhagic Disease of White-tailed Deer - Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Brochure, University of Georgia

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Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 13, 2014