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  • By Ken Perrotte

Hemorrhagic Disease of Deer Update in Southwest Virginia

RICHMOND, VA – As of October 12, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has received reports of more than 150 deer dying from suspected cases of hemorrhagic disease (HD) in several counties in Southwest Virginia (see attached table to the right).

Hemorrhagic disease is a common infectious disease of white-tailed deer, and outbreaks occur annually in the Southeast, although historically it has been rare in the western part of Virginia. HD outbreaks are characterized by otherwise healthy looking deer being found dead or dying near or in the water during late summer and early fall.

Deer hunters and the general public are cautioned to not mistake or confuse HD with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a more serious deer disease and to date it has not been found to occur within hundreds of miles from southwest Virginia. Click here for more information on CWD.

The current HD event in southwest Virginia is actually just the eastern boundary of a much larger and more serious HD event that spread through the Appalachian Mountains this summer from eastern Tennessee, through eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and into Ohio and Pennsylvania. For example, as of October 10th, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources had received nearly 4,300 reports of HD in eastern Kentucky.

HD poses no threat to humans or domestic pets such as dogs and cats. No cases of blue tongue (a variant of HD which can cause illness in sheep) have been detected in Virginia. Biting flies, commonly known as biting gnats, transmit this viral disease. HD outbreaks can continue until the first frost kills the insects that carry the disease. Hemorrhagic disease cannot be spread by direct contact between infected animals and not all deer that contract the disease will die.

While it is impossible to determine the exact number of deer affected by the current outbreak, some decrease in deer numbers in the affected areas listed above may be expected. Hunters are not at risk from handling or eating venison from infected deer. However, deer that develop infections secondary to HD or look obviously sick should not be consumed.

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will continue to monitor this situation and will provide technical assistance to affected landowners. If you have observed sick or dead deer in your area and suspect HD may be the cause, please report it to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regional office in Wise at (276) 376-4560 or to the Wildlife Helpline at (855) 571-9003.

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