Deer Virus Startling, but Common


There have been understandable concerns in recent days about large number of dead deer noticed in the mid-Ohio Valley.   The DNR confirms the mortality among a large number of whitetails is epizootic hemorrhagic disease.  

The ailment isn’t unusual and West Virginia has outbreaks every few years.

"The last large outbreak was in 2007, some people may remember that.  We had outbreaks in 1993.  This is not unusual," said DNR Deer Biologist Jim Crum. "It occurs somewhere in the United States every year in whitetail deer."

The ailment is spread by the tiniest of creatures.

"No-see-ums," said Crum. "They’re the tiny gnats that look like a piece of pepper on your arm. They’re really small."

Small in stature, but when infected with the virus they are big in impact.

"The bug gets infected, the virus replicates in the bug, and there’s experiments show one bug can infect one deer," said Crum.

The virus isn’t always fatal, but in West Virginia the outbreaks are spaced so far apart the whitetail herd in the state doesn’t build the immunity herds in other states can develop.   The virus cannot spread from deer to deer, but must be carried by the gnat. 

Crum says by the first frost it’s over when the gnats are wiped out for the season.   Those infected deer which survive will have immunity to another outbreak in their lifetime.   Those deer can be identified by hoof lesions. 

Outbreaks have been severe in Wood, Pleasants, Hancock, and Jefferson Counties this year.   Several smaller outbreaks have also claimed deer mortality in other parts of the state.


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