Deadly deer disease found in Jefferson County

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, New York (WWNY) - A disease that’s killing deer in New York state has spread to southern Jefferson County.

It’s called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD, and it’s transmitted to deer through the bites of midges, small insects sometimes called no-see-ums or ‘punkies.’

This year, EHD has already killed 700 deer in the state.

The virus was first confirmed in New York deer in 2007, with relatively small outbreaks in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties, and in Rockland County in 2011.

From early September to late October 2020, a large EHD outbreak occurred in the lower Hudson Valley, killing an estimated 1,500 deer.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, deer usually die within 36 hours of being infected with the virus.

EHD outbreaks are most common in the late summer and early fall when midges are abundant, although initial cases this year were detected in late July. As a result, it has been more widespread this year than during previous outbreaks.

In New York, 16 counties have seen cases, including southern Jefferson County.

Signs of the disease include fever, hemorrhage in muscles or organs, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. A deer infected with EHD may appear lame or dehydrated.

Frequently, infected deer will seek out water sources and many die near a water source.

There is no treatment or means to prevent EHD.

Here’s the good news: the disease is not spread from deer to deer and humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges.

Dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals.

The DEC said it’s unlikely to affect hunting season.

“While we’ve seen some cases in Jefferson County - Jefferson County has a lot of deer - I don’t see that deer population getting hammered by EHD enough that any hunters are really going to notice the difference,” said Steven Heerkens, DEC wildlife biologist.

The first frost of the year typically wipes out the midges, reducing the spread of disease.

If you see a dead or dying deer suspected of having EHD, the DEC asks that you report it by calling a regional wildlife office.

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