Hemorrhagic disease (HD) includes both epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue (BTV) viruses. The resulting disease produced by EHD and bluetongue viruses is indistinguishable, thus the general term for is Hemorrhagic Disease (HD), as the specific virus can only be determined from laboratory evaluation. This year, only EHD has been confirmed in Nebraska.
HD is caused by a virus transmitted by a small biting fly (midges in the genus Culicoides).
Infected deer typically develop a high fever and seek out water sources for relief, therefore, deer that have died due to HD are often found near/in creeks, ponds, and lakes.
Deer that succumb to HD normally die of internal bleeding. Infected animals may also exhibit symptoms including swollen tongue/eyelids/head/neck, lethargy, loss of fear of humans, incoordination/lameness, and lesions/ulcers on the tongue/dental pad/stomach.
A hard frost or freezing temperatures will kill the midge and without the midge to transfer the virus, deer mortality due to HD should significantly decrease.
Q: Are deer safe to eat?
A: There is no evidence to suggest a human health risk from the handling or consumption of HD-infected deer, as HD viruses are not known to infect humans.
However, deer that appear to be sick or unhealthy should not be consumed.
Q: What do I do if I see a sick or dead deer?
A: Please report sick and dead deer (with unexplained cause of death) to the nearest Game and Parks office: Alliance, 308-763-2940; North Platte, 308-535-8025; Kearney, 308-865-5310; Bassett, 402-684-2921; Norfolk, 402-370-3374; and Lincoln, 402-471-0641.
A confirmed diagnosis of HD can only be done with laboratory testing, although a strong tentative diagnosis can be made based on physical and behavioral symptoms and close proximity to water.
Q: Can HD affect other wildlife, livestock or pets?
A: HD is primarily a disease of white-tailed deer, but it sometimes affects pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep and elk. Livestock rarely contract EHD.
Cattle rarely exhibit clinical signs from either EHD or Bluetongue, although a small percentage of animals may develop fever, lameness, or sore mouths.
EHD and Bluetongue do not affect cats or dogs.
Q: Should we hunt deer this year?
A: The severity of losses can be highly localized, so hunters are encouraged to communicate with landowners about potential changes in deer hunting opportunities where they plan to hunt, and make permit purchases accordingly.
Q: Are all the deer in my area going to die?
A: No, HD can significantly decrease the deer population in localized areas, but the deer populations normally recover within a few years.
It is important to remember that we have outbreaks previously and will likely have outbreaks in the future. Disease events are normal players in long term population dynamics.
Q: I am not seeing deer in my area. What happened?
A: HD may have killed some of the deer in your area.
In addition, drought, crop harvest, removal of habitat such as CRP or timber, can also cause deer to move.
Deer can migrate great distances for adequate access to food and water.
Q: Can we do anything to prevent HD from infecting the deer?
A: No, a significant decrease of deer infected with HD will result once an area receives a hard frost or freezing temperatures killing the midge.
There is no cure or vaccine for HD.
Q: Is HD due to the drought/hot summer temperatures?
A: A drought is not required for deer to contract HD, however, significant outbreaks are often associated with years of droughts/hot temperatures.
This is because droughts/high temperatures appear to facilitate the transmission of the disease as the biting fly is more abundant and deer concentrate around water sources during these conditions.
Q: Is this the same as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)?
A: No, CWD is an entirely different disease.
The infectious agent causing CWD is an abnormal protein, known as a prion, while HD is caused by a virus.
A: Yes, several Midwest states have also reported HD this year, including bordering states of Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota and Wyoming.
For more information:
For more information call your nearest Game and Parks office: Alliance, 308-763-2940; North Platte, 308-535-8025; Kearney, 308-865-5310; Bassett, 402-684-2921; Norfolk, 402-370-3374; and Lincoln, 402-471-0641. For new information, check the site weekly - new updates will be posted as they become available.