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Blue tongue/ EHD

bang250bang250 Member Posts: 8,021
I found this on another web site, thought it may interest some of you since it is not just Illinois that it can affect.

I was browsing the IL forum on the Bowsite Message board and found an interesting thread indicating that the remains of many deer are being discovered by shed hunters. According to the discussion, these are not isolated incidents. There were several posts to the the threads and the number of deer reported being found varied from a half dozen reported by one contributor to upwards of fifty reported by another. Southern IL as well as Fulton and McDonough Counties were mentioned as areas where these deer were being found. The conclusion by the participants in the message board thread was that these deer must have died from the Blue Tongue Virus last summer.
The threads indicated that antlers of bucks along with bones and remnants of attached hide were found. There were some posts that indicated that some remains appeared to be somewhat fresh. This was puzzling since most thought that the virus was not active in late fall and winter.

After reading the reports in the threads I decided to do some research. I had heard there were reports last fall that many deer in Fulton County had succumbed to a Blue Tongue like disease and there were even rumors that our local herd might be in trouble.

One of the posts referred to a link on the North Carolina DNR that contained good information about a category of deer disease know as Hemorrhagic Disease (HD). I checked it out and learned that the Blue Tongue is actually one of two infectious viruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and Blue Tongue that are generally categorized as Hemorrhagic Disease (HD). The virus is prevalent in many states in the US but is heavily concentrated in the Southeastern United States.

I began to wonder if the deer in Fulton County died from Blue Tongue or EHD? I also was concerned that our local herd might be significantly impacted by the disease.

I decided to contact Paul Shelton, the DNR Biologist charged with managing the state's estimated 800,000 deer herd. Paul indicated that there are really seven types of virus that are associated with HD. There are two types of the virus associated with EHD and five types of the virus associated with Blue Tongue. I told Paul about what I had read and asked if he had received any recent reports of dead deer being found. Paul indicated that he had not received any recent reports but that there had been substantiated reports late last summer and early fall of dead deer being found in Menard, Mason & Fulton. Paul went on to say that these types of reports are fielded throughout the State every year, but there had been a slightly higher number of reports in these counties last year.

"HD virus is fairly ubiquitous in Illinois, meaning it is out there waiting for conditions to be right for an outbreak"

Paul indicated that it is sometimes difficult to confirm cause of death from HD because samples used for testing must be taken within 24hrs of death. He also stated the DNR did confirm that the die off from last Summer/Fall was caused by a Type II strain of EHD and not Blue Tongue. Paul stated that although the reports in these counties were slightly higher in 2005, it was unlikely that the die off was significant enough to impact growth of the local herd or future harvest numbers. He also stated that the last significant outbreak of HD in Illinois occurred in 1997. The outbreak was widespread across the State and dead deer were reported found as early as July. Generally, August, September and October are months when the DNR receive the most reports of deer die off.

Paul indicated the HD virus is fairly ubiquitous in Illinois, meaning it is out there waiting for conditions to be right for an outbreak. Ideal condition for outbreaks is a very warm wet spring followed by a very dry summer. Deer are infected with the virus from the bites of Midges (A type of Nat). The wet warm spring promotes masses of insects and the dry summer cause both deer and Midges to congregate around water holes and low lying areas. The deer do not transfer the virus from one to another by interacting and can only be infected from the bite of the Midge. Mosquitoes or other insects do not have the ability to transmit HD to Deer. A deer can only be infected from a biting Midge that has the virus present in the saliva gland of the midge.

Deer that are infected with HD develop a high fever and go to water to die. The disease progresses in one of three ways:

Peracute - Deer die rapidly within two days swollen tongue and fluid filled lung is evident.
Acute - Disease progresses quickly with many signs of internal hemorrhaging.
Chronic - Disease progress slowly, deer suffer drastic weight loss and hoofs show deformity.

Some deer can survive the disease and it is thought that a general resistance can be acquired, at least for the particular strain of the virus that the deer was originally infected with. HD was discovered in deer herds of Southeastern United States sometime in the 1950's. Over a period of years the Southeastern herds may have begun to demonstrate some resistance to the the virus. In areas of the country that are new to the virus, deer herds appear to have less resistance and initially herds are more severely impacted.

HD is not known to be infectious to Humans, but any deer that have signs of disease should not be processed for consumption. So at this point it appears that the impact of HD on our local herd is more like a small blip on the radar than a major concern. It is however, important to emphasize that discoveries of sick or dead deer should be reported to your local CPO or the Illinois DNR. These reports help DNR Biologist understand the prevalence of the disease in the herd. The DNR also contributes information to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study which tracks the progression of HD throughout the United States.
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