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PA Game Commission: EHD Outbreak Update: Test Results Confirm EHD In Beaver County

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dr. Walter Cottrell, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, today announced that the test result from an adult female deer has confirmed that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been found in Beaver County.

"This outbreak of EHD is more significant than the one in 2002, as it occurred earlier in the year and has impacted more deer in a larger area," Dr. Cottrell said. "In addition, the fact that we are finding EHD earlier this year means that it will take longer before the first good frost, which is what is needed to kill the insects responsible for spreading the virus.

"Though difficult to determine the precise number of deer that have died due to EHD because of the rapid decomposition of dead deer, we have our officer's observations and those of concerned citizens that suggest that the number is in excess of 1,000 animals at this time and could increase. Rapid decomposition of affected deer and the large area that is affected will continue to make an actual body count impractical."

Dr. Cottrell noted that additional samples from deer found dead in Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, Washington and Westmoreland counties have been submitted for testing. Residents with information about other sick or dead deer are urged to contact the Southwest Region Office at 724-238-9523.

So far, EHD has been confirmed throughout Greene County; West Finley, East Finley, South Franklin, Morris, Amwell, West Bethlehem and Marianna townships in Washington County; and Greene, Hanover, Raccoon, Industry, Potter, Ohioville, South Beaver, Wanport, Shippingport, Midland, Glasgow, Georgetown, Hookstown, Independence, Center and Brighton townships in Beaver County.

"There is no doubt that hunter success and satisfaction will be reduced in those local areas hardest hit by EHD," said Matthew Hough, Game Commission Southwest Region director. "But, WMU 2A is a large area with a lot of deer. Hunters should consider moving out of those local areas that are hit the hardest and hunt the areas of WMU 2A that have not been hit or have reduced mortalities from this outbreak. Now is the time to scout new areas prior to the seasons.

"Also, hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts should take heart in the fact that WMU 2A has good habitat and the deer population will rebound rapidly. Some of the hardest hit areas along the Washington/Greene county line of WMU 2A were hit with the 2002 outbreak. Prior to this year's event, there was no shortage of deer in those same areas, which means that the deer herd rebounded then and they will rebound again."

"While we want to continue to receive reports about dead deer in these townships and counties, we also are very interested in hearing from those who find dead deer in other areas of southwestern Pennsylvania," Cottrell said. "As tissue samples must be extracted within 24 hours of death to be suitable for conducting tests, it is important that we hear from residents as soon as possible."

Dr. Cottrell reminded hunters that EHD cannot be contracted by humans and it is extremely rare for this virus to cause clinical signs in traditional livestock, such as cattle, sheep or goats. However, there is evidence of an EHD outbreak in domestic cattle, both dairy and beef, in southwestern Ohio, while sheep on one of the two farms affected do not seem to be ill. However, farmed deer and elk are susceptible. Anyone who suspects EHD in their livestock should contact their private veterinary practitioner.

"While there is no evidence that humans can acquire this disease, other diseases may be transmitted by careless hygiene when processing deer. As a routine precaution, all hunters are encouraged to wear rubber or latex gloves when handling or field-dressing any animal, and wash their hands and tools thoroughly after field dressing," Dr. Cottrell said. "As with any wild game, meat should always be thoroughly cooked."

EHD is a common but sporadic disease in white-tailed deer populations of the United States, and is contracted by the bite of insects called "biting midges." In more northern states, such as Pennsylvania, EHD occurs less often and the deer are less able to mount an effective immune response. The virus usually kills the naive animal within five to 10 days. It is not spread from deer to deer by contact. While EHD is not infectious to humans, deer displaying severe symptoms of EHD are usually not suitable for consumption because of the rapid deterioration of the meat and secondary bacterial infection.

Dr. Cottrell stressed that even though some EHD symptoms are similar to those of chronic wasting disease (CWD) - such as excessive drooling, weakness and a loss of fear of humans - there is no relationship between EHD and CWD.

"However, because these diseases coexist, all of the deer that are submitted are being tested for CWD," Dr. Cottrell said. "It also is worth noting that like CWD, EHD is one of those diseases that can be amplified by anything that serves to congregate deer, such as supplemental feeding, and placement of salt or mineral blocks. While the disease is not spread from deer to deer through contact, congregating animals through feeding does make transmission easier by allowing midges greater access to a larger number of animals in a more confined area. Therefore, such feeding activities should be discontinued immediately."

Cottrell also pointed out that the EHD outbreak should end with the onset of colder weather, which will kill the insects that spread the disease. He noted that EHD, unlike CWD, is a seasonal disease and agreed that the affected local deer herd will rebound quickly.

"The good news from this situation is that the public is reporting these sightings to the Game Commission," Cottrell said. "Should the state's deer herd be infected with more serious diseases, the Game Commission will need to rely on the continued vigilance of the public so that we can respond in a timely manner."

Residents in other counties are encouraged to call their respective regions to report dead or sick deer. Contact information is available on page 3 of the 2007-08 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which is presented to each license buyer and the agency's website ( under the "Contact Us" section at the bottom of the homepage.

EHD was first confirmed in Pennsylvania in 2002, when an outbreak caused the death of 70 deer in Greene and Washington counties. That same year, EHD was confirmed in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In 1996, EHD was suspected to be the cause of death in nearly 25 deer in Adams County, but test results in that case were inconclusive.

This year, numerous other states also are finding EHD-related mortality this year, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio and West Virginia.

Facts About the Pennsylvania Game Commission: As wildlife health concerns increased, Dr. Walter Cottrell was hired as the Game Commission's first wildlife veterinarian in 2005.

NOTE TO EDITORS: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to:

For Information Contact:

Jerry Feaser


SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission
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