Livestock News

Dead deer reports? EHD can also spread to cattle


Aw the fall season… a time for harvest, hunting … and hemorrhagic disease?

Epizootic Hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is the most common occurring viral disease of white-tailed deer in the United States and is spread by a biting midge. While the disease usually affects deer populations in the late summer or early fall, many ranchers might not realize EHD can spread to cattle as well.

According to Andy Lindbloom, senior big games biologist with the South Dakota Games, Fish and Parks, the state has already received a little over 500 reports of dead deer this year. The GF&P has tested and confirmed 14 positive results for EHD from 12 different counties in South Dakota.

“We probably lose some deer in some parts of the state every year to some hemorrhagic disease losses, but usually it is minimal,” Lindbloom said. “The last time we had a very substantial amount of losses was in 2012. We had about 3,700 reports of dead deer in 2012 and a lot of that was in the southeast part of the state.”

Dustin Oedekoven, state veterinarian and executive secretary for the South Dakota Animal Industry Board, also recalls 2012 standing out as one of the worst years for cattle infected.

The USDA APHIS Veterinary Services area offices reported 129 cattle herds tested positive in 2012, with a majority of the cases found in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa. This year the South Dakota Animal Industry Board has only received two cases of cattle herds being infected with EHD so far.

“EHD usually affects only a few animals in a herd.  Affected animals may drool and be off-feed.  They may also develop blisters or erosions in their mouths,” Oedekoven said. “Symptoms may look similar to other foreign or emerging diseases, such as Hoof and Mouth Disease or Vesicular Stomatitis, so getting a laboratory diagnosis is important.”

“When we start getting reports of dead deer, when they start frequently coming in late summer, we test them just to confirm this is what we are dealing with and presume that most of the other deer we get are from EHD in those areas, once we start getting some positive tests back from the lab,” Lindbloom said.

The southeastern portion of the United States has EHD outbreaks every year with relatively few losses of animals. In the northern plains, where there is not an immunity build-up to the virus, losses can either be minimal or significant.

“As an agency, here in the next week or two, we will have discussion on whether or not if we want to take any action, as far as if we want to pull any unsold deer licenses in some areas where we have seen more losses. Do we want to offer any deer license refunds? Those are some things we have done in the past when we have higher occurrence of hemorrhagic disease,” Lindbloom said.  “When we do have a fair amount of losses, we will obviously consider that next year when we allocate license numbers for deer. In those areas where we have losses, if we are going to back off on deer harvest depending on what our main objective is for that area.”

While there is relatively no preventative action land owners or cattle producers can take, both Lindbloom and Oedekoven recommend reporting any outbreaks.

“Fly control is important, as the virus is spread by biting midges,” Oedekoven said. “Cattle producers should report sick animals to their veterinarian and work with the vet to determine the proper course of action.”

“We are definitely interested in hearing from folks if they are seeing dead deer,” Lindbloom said. “It helps us to account for those losses better.”


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