Kentucky Afield News
Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
September 23, 2003
For more information: Lee McClellan (800) 858-1549
Hemorrhagic Disease Suspected in Deer Deaths
Frankfort, KY, Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - The Kentucky Department of
Fishand Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) recently received reports of deer
deaths inAdair, Boyle, Breathitt, Casey, Cumberland, Fleming, Green,
Hardin,Henderson, Larue, Marion, Rowan, Taylor and Woodford counties.
Officials atthe KDFWR suspect hemorrhagic disease may be causing the
deaths. The onlysignificant outbreak is in Breathitt County where over 58
deer have beenreported dead. The dead or weak and emaciated deer are
usually found nearwater.
"Hemorrhagic disease is caused by a virus that occurs about every two
yearsin Kentucky," says Danny Watson, a wildlife biologist with the
KentuckyDepartment of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
With deer hunting seasons opening, hunters are concerned about the safety
ofeating deer that may be infected with hemorrhagic disease.
Hemorrhagicdisease is not infectious to humans.
Biting gnats transmit hemorrhagic disease. Hemorrhagic disease
usuallyoccurs in late summer and early fall because of the increased
presence ofthese biting gnats. Deer with chronic cases can be found in
Hemorrhagic disease occurs annually in the southeastern United States,
butits distribution and severity of occurrence widely varies. Less than
25percent of the deer in a population usually die from the disease, but
deathrates can be higher in certain cases.
Signs of the disease depend on the strength of the virus and length
ofinfection in the animal. Hemorrhagic disease causes fever, labored
breathingand swelling of the head, neck, tongue and eyelids. Infected deer
may diewithin 72 hours, or they may slowly deteriorate for months from
lameness andstarvation. Early in the cycle of the disease, animals may
show little or nosign of infection. Infected deer that survive for a
period of timeexperience lameness, loss of appetite and greatly reduced
In some instances, outbreaks occurred simultaneously in deer, sheep
andcattle. This is not due to the disease spreading from deer to livestock
orvice versa, but is an indication the biting gnats are present in
significantnumbers to transmit disease.
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