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Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)

Dead deer
 

EHD in North Dakota

Last updated 09/18/2013

In August 2013, North Dakota Game and Fish wildlife biologists began receiving reports of white-tailed deer deaths in western North Dakota. Details of those reported deaths had characteristics similar to previous EHD events, and initial necropsy results on a freshly dead deer from Burleigh County indicated the potential presence of EHD. Through mid-September, Game and Fish has received about 20 reports involving more than 90 dead deer, and two of those cases were confirmed by a laboratory as EHD. The reports have been scattered from near Bismarck, to Bowman County in far southwestern North Dakota.

Deer losses to EHD occur periodically in North Dakota. Sometimes the incidents are isolated and affect few animals, and in other cases the disease is spread over a large geographic region. The typical range where EHD is found in North Dakota is southwest of the Missouri River, and in large outbreaks most counties in this region are affected.

Game and Fish is urging all hunters in the field this fall to report any observations of dead deer, and to report locations quickly so biologists can gauge distribution and severity.

Information needed from each report is the species, age, sex and location (if possible the legal description of the land, or a GPS coordinate, and a photograph, or at the very least the number of miles and direction from the closest town.

EHD primarily affects white-tailed deer, and is most noticeable in western North Dakota when high whitetail populations combine with a hot and humid late summer and early fall. Most deer that die from this are infected before the first hard frost, which kills the biting midges that spread the disease.

The last time North Dakota had significant deer deaths from EHD was 2011.

EHD causes dehydration and a high body temperature, causing deer to seek water prior to death. Other clinical and behavior symptoms may include respiratory distress; swelling of head, neck, and tongue; lesions on tongue and roof of mouth; indifference to humans; and in later stages, hemorrhaging from body orifices.

EHD is not a danger to humans. However, hunters should not shoot or consume a deer if it appears sick. Hunters should report any dead deer observations to the Game and Fish Department at ndgf@nd.gov, or (701) 328-6351.

See the September 17, 2013 news release for information concerning EHD impacts on hunting license numbers this fall.


EHD FAQs

What animals are commonly infected by EHD? White-tailed Deer

Is this animal infected?

  • Infection is seasonal and occurs if the right weather conditions are present for biting flies in the genus Culicoides to reproduce.
  • Groups of dead white-tailed deer may be found in late summer or early fall near water sources with no apparent signs of disease.
  • Clinical signs in white-tailed deer are variable.

Can I get it? No, Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is not known to cause illness in people.

How do I protect myself and others?

  • The viruses that cause EHD do not infect people.
  • There is no risk from handling or eating meat from infected white-tailed deer.
  • Secondary bacterial infections that may develop in sick white-tailed deer may make the meat unsuitable for consumption.
  • Caution should always be taken when handling any sick or dead animal as the animal may have a disease that may be zoonotic (zoonotic means a disease that humans can get from animals).
  • If multiple dead white-tailed deer are encountered in a given area, contact the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Is the meat from a white-tailed deer that has EHD safe for pets? Yes, meat is generally safe for pets to consume if no secondary bacterial infections are present.

What causes EHD? In North America there are two types of orbiviruses (Reoviridae) that cause EHD. There are two subtypes of epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV 1 and 2) and five subtypes of bluetongue virus (BTV 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17).


For more information on EHD see: