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Deer disease found in Michigan
Updated: 09-23-2011 18:38:46

By Craig McMorris, TV5 Anchor/Reporter

SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Two white-tailed deer have been diagnosed with epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It's an often-fatal viral disease found in deer.

The two deer were a 1-and-1/2-year-old male and a 3-and-1/2-year-old female. They were collected from a location in Cass County and tested positive for the disease at the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University.

The disease is characterized by extensive hemorrhages and is transmitted by a biting fly (midge). White-tailed deer develop signs of the illness about seven days after exposure.

A constant characteristic of the disease is its sudden onset. Deer initially lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively, develop a rapid pulse and respiration rate and finally become unconscious. Due to a high fever, the deer often are found sick or dead along or in bodies of water.

There is no evidence that humans can contract the EHD virus.

There is no known effective treatment for, or control of, EHD. Michigan first documented EHD in its white-tailed deer population in 1955.

Additional die-offs attributed to EHD occurred in 1974 in several Michigan counties, and again in 2006 in Allegan County. A similar die-off affected areas of Oakland and Macomb counties along the Clinton River in 2008, in Livingston County in 2009 and in six western Michigan counties in 2010.

EHD is a common white-tailed deer disease in the southern United States. More frequent outbreaks of EHD in Michigan could be a consequence of climate changes that favor the northward spread of the biting flies that spread the disease, said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR Wildlife Division.

Property owners who discover dead deer they suspect died of EHD are asked by the DNR to call the nearest DNR office to report it.

The DNR Wildlife Disease Lab wants collect more fresh specimens to test for the disease to determine its spread.

The state says property owners are responsible for the proper disposal of unwanted carcasses.

Carcasses can be buried at a sufficient depth so that body parts are not showing. Carcasses also can be disposed of at landfills that accept household solid waste.

For more information on EHD, please see www.michigan.gov/wildlifedisease.