The first confirmed case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) was recently announced in both white-tailed deer and cattle in Ohio. The virus was diagnosed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL).
The positive diagnoses were from a cow from Jefferson County and a wild white-tailed deer buck from Lorain County. The discovery is not unusual, as cases of this infection have been detected in both wild and captive white-tailed deer in Ohio in the summer and fall of each of the last several years. In fact, significant disease outbreaks in Ohio have occurred every five years, the last in 2012. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife (DOW) reports numerous dead deer from Columbiana and Jefferson counties. EHD virus has also been confirmed in neighboring counties of both Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
The EHD virus is not infectious to people and is not spread from animal to animal. It is transmitted by the bite of small midges, so infections are often seen in Ohio in late summer and early fall. EHD-associated deaths can occur up through the first frost of the year. Once infected, deer show symptoms within five to ten days and many deer die within 36 hours of the onset of symptoms. People should always avoid touching or handling sick or dead wild animals.
White-tailed deer, along with mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope are susceptible to the disease. Deer infected with this virus may show symptoms including lethargy, head hung down, loss of fear of humans, swelling of the tongue and head and neck, difficulty breathing and excess salivation due to tongue swelling or ulcers in the mouth. Affected deer are often found in or near bodies of water, likely due to fever and dehydration.
Cattle may show signs including swelling of the muzzle, oral erosions, salivation, off feed condition and fever. Affected cattle and sheep may also show signs as described for deer as described above. Such cases in cattle and sheep may mimic other reportable diseases such as foot and mouth disease, bluetongue and vesicular stomatitis. Producers and animal owners are strongly encouraged to report such cases to their veterinarian.
Veterinarians have been alerted about the confirmed tests and should report suspect cases in livestock to ODA at 614-728-6220. Sightings of sick or dead deer should be directed to the ODNR-DOW at 1-800-WILDLIFE.