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Kentucky Afield News

Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources

fw.ky.gov

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 winter.

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 activity.

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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