Dry conditions are not only having an impact on the crops again this year, they are also starting to impact deer. DNR State Deer Biologist, Tom Litchfield, says they are starting to see what are believed to be cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease or EHD. The disease is spread by a tiny insect called a midge.
“Typically in Iowa, this midge that spreads this virus doesn’t do well. It’s on years were we’re extra hot and dry that provides the conditions in these more northern latitudes where midge can then multiply and become abundant and a good vector for this virus,” Litchfield explains.
The midges flourished in the drought last year, and that led to a lot of cases of EHD.”Last year Iowa experienced its worst documented Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease outbreak on record, with right at three-thousand animals being reported,” according to Litchfield. “And that’s just the number of animal reported and not an estimate of the actual number of deaths.”
Approximately 20 deer were found near the Linn/Johnson County line that are believed to have died from EHD. “We currently have some samples at the lab undergoing analysis for diagnosis — but all appearances look like it is a hemorrhagic disease becoming active again in Iowa,” Litchfield says. “These aren’t carryover animals from last year, this is a new outbreak.”
Iowa had a wet spring this year before the drought hit, and Litchfield says the outbreak of EHD is hitting about a month later. “That’s working in the advantage of the deer herd that this virus is getting a later start,” he says.
You don’t have to worry about contracting the disease if come upon a dead deer. “The virus doesn’t impact people or pets, it’s strictly a virus that impacts cloven hoofed animals, ungulates and basically deer. Most cattle are completely immune to this virus,” Litchfield explains. He asks anyone who may see deer they believe have been stricken with EHD to report it to the DNR to allow the department to keep track of the cases.
Once infected, the virus multiplies very quickly within a deer, causing high fever, breakdown of cell walls and dehydration. Dead and sick animals will often be found near water.. In later stages of the disease, the animals will be lethargic, stumbling, sometimes drooling and unresponsive.