Will a Deadly Deer Virus Affect this Year's Hunt? MN Health Expert Weighs in

Taylor Holt
Updated: October 18, 2018 06:46 PM

With the Minnesota firearms deer hunting season less than a month away, animal health officials are monitoring a deadly virus affecting Minnesota's deer population. It's called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease or EHD.

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"We have never seen it before in the state of Minnesota. In the southern U.S. it can be very common," said Senior Veterinarian, Mackenzie Reberg with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

Reberg says the recent discovery of EHD is an isolated one, but still one of concern.

"All the cases were in a single small herd in Goodhue County. I would describe it as a hobby deer farm. They had seven animals. Six of them died within a 36-hour period from the disease," she said.
The virus is caused by a biting midge and more severely affects white tailed deer. The most common signs are weakness and fever.

"Common signs are (also) inappetence and they can have swelling of their head and neck. Often times they are found dead," Reberg added.

Reberg says they are continuing to look into how to virus got here.

"We've heard of reported cases in Wisconsin and South Dakota and we do have the vector, the biting midge in Minnesota so it's just a matter of moving the virus here within those insects," said Reberg. "The insects themselves don't travel very far on their own but they can be blown long distances with the wind."

As of now, there are no reported cases in wild deer. Reberg says the good news is also that the virus does not infect humans and can not be transmitted from deer to deer, but that doesn't mean there won't be impacts.

"It could potentially have pretty severe affects for deer farmers in the state, if the disease becomes more widespread," Reberg added.

However, they don't expect it to have any impacts on this year's hunt.

"Most areas have had a pretty good frost, and a lot of these insects have been killed off so we don't expect a lot more risk this Fall but in the future, we will definitely be monitoring for more cases," she said.

There is not much producers can do to protect their animals from this, but generally, insect control and avoiding exposure to low, wet areas is recommended.


Taylor Holt

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