Sunday, September 23, 2012

Virus Infecting New Jersey Deer

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics (OFWHF) reports that Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) that affects whitetail deer has spread. The first New Jersey outbreak occurred in 2007, from Morris to Salem counties. Last year, smaller outbreaks occurred in central and northern New Jersey. The virus has been found in Warren County as well as Gloucester and Salem counties, and test results are pending for several others.

NJDEP wildlife officials have issued an alert to hunters to be aware of the virus.

Federal wildlife officials have said there could be more severe outbreaks of the disease this fall because widespread drought and high temperatures caused low water levels, creating more muddy areas, which midges favor. Also, deer herd immunity may be low because the last large outbreak occurred five years ago, and many deer only live for two or three years.

Deer become infected with EHD through the bites of midge flies, and infected deer can show such symptoms as drooling, foaming from the mouth or nose, and difficulty standing. Infected deer also may experience internal hemorrhaging and hemorrhaging around the eyes and mouth.

They typically die within five to 10 days of infection, growing progressively weaker and salivating excessively. They often die near or in a body of water, where they have gone to try and cool off.

The disease cannot be transmitted to people, and humans are not at risk by handling infected deer, being bitten by infected midges, or eating meat from infected deer, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. But the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife “strongly advises against consuming meat from any game animal that appears ill,” the agency said in a statement.

Deer cannot spread the disease to each other. “Outbreaks end with the onset of cold weather, which kills the midges that spread the disease,” said David Chanda, director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts should report sightings of infected deer to the state DEP’s office of fish and wildlife health forensics at 908-236-2118, or the Bureau of Wildlife Management’s northern office at 908-735-7040.

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