Over the past several weeks in Indiana, and many other states, there has been increasing attention being paid to Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in deer. Sightings of dead deer have been reported around parts of Indiana. Even though EHD is often fatal to white-tailed deer, outbreaks are usually localized and the deaths do not cause widespread population declines. According to the Indiana DNR, over 40 counties have deer reported or suspected to have EHD.
EHD is a viral disease spread by biting midges – not deer to deer contact. Symptoms include loss of appetite and fear of man, weakness, and fever. Affected animals are often found in or adjacent to bodies of water to cool off. The disease gets its name from the hemorrhaging of internal tissues and organs resulting from the degeneration of blood vessel walls and interference with blood-clotting mechanisms.
A hard freeze kills the midge that spreads the disease, eliminating new cases of EHD. With the onset of the statewide deer archery (October 1) season upon us, hunters should be aware of sick deer. The EHD virus is not transmittable to people and there appears to be no risk associated with direct exposure to the virus or in consuming a deer that has been infected with the virus. Even so, it is generally good practice for hunters to never kill or eat a visibly sick deer.