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Pennsylvania Game Commission Announces EHD Confirmed in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dr. Walter Cottrell, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, today announced that test results of dead deer from the southwestern part of the state have confirmed that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been found in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

Results released today involved an adult female deer that was found dead in Jefferson Township, Allegheny County, and an adult female deer that was found dead in St. Clair Township, Westmoreland County. Other counties in which EHD has been confirmed are Beaver, Greene and Washington counties.

As a reminder, Dr. Cottrell and other agency personnel from the Southwest Region are holding an informational meeting at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 28, at the Waynesburg Fairgrounds Auction Building, Greene County, to provide the public with an update on the current outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in the southwestern part of the state.

Additionally, to provide the public with more information about EHD, the agency has posted an EHD fact sheet on its website ( The website also chronicles the agency's news releases issued about this outbreak since Aug. 27.

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.

"This outbreak of EHD is more significant than the one in 2002 and has impacted more deer in a larger area," Dr. Cottrell said. "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.

"Reports of dead or dying deer are important to us. Though an actual body count of afflicted deer is almost impossible to obtain, because of the rapid decomposition and the area where the outbreak is occurring is large, we still value these reports. Also, tissue samples must be extracted within 24 hours of death to be suitable for conducting tests. That is why it is so important that we hear from residents as soon as possible after they find a suspect deer."

Dr. Cottrell reminded hunters that EHD cannot be contracted by humans and it is rare for this virus to cause clinical signs in traditional livestock, such as cattle, sheep or goats. However, as has been the case occasionally in the past, 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 are at risk from EHD, 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."

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, as many of the deer as possible that are submitted for EHD testing also are being tested for CWD," Dr. Cottrell said. "It also is worth noting that like CWD, EHD is one of those diseases whose mortality rate 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 through deer to deer contact, congregating animals through feeding does make transmission easier by allowing midges that carry the virus greater access to a larger number of animals in a more confined area. Therefore, such feeding activities should be discontinued immediately.

"The good news from this situation is that the public is reporting these sightings to the Game Commission. Should the state's deer herd be infected with other 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."

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, including: Alabama; Georgia; Tennessee; Kentucky; Indiana; South Carolina; North Carolina; Virginia; Ohio; and West Virginia.

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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