Game Commission Announces EHD Confirmed In Cambria County
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- 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 Cambria County.
Results released today involved a juvenile male that was found dead in Westmont, Cambria County. However, there have been no other reports of sick or dead deer in Cambria County. Other counties in which EHD has been confirmed in wild, free-ranging deer are Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The Game Commission has received reports of EHD affected deer in other counties as well, but still is awaiting laboratory results.
On Oct. 11, the state Agriculture Department announced that it had confirmed EHD in farmed deer in Franklin County. EHD has been confirmed in cattle in Franklin, Somerset and Washington counties, but no mortalities were reported in these cases. As of today, there have been no reports of EHD in wild, free-roaming deer in Franklin or Somerset counties.
"Our Wildlife Conservation Officers, Land Managers and other field staff have been on the look out for evidence of EHD in wild deer," said Rob Criswell, Game Commission Southcentral Region director. "We urge anyone finding dead deer or sick deer to contact our office with specific information.
"Fortunately, the weather has begun to cool, and we hopefully will soon have our first good frost, which is expected to kill the insects that are spreading the EHD virus. Also, as we have not found EHD in the wild, free-roaming deer in Franklin County, we do not expect that hunters will notice any impact on local deer densities."
The Southcentral Region Office phone number is 814-643-1831, and serves the following counties: Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry and Snyder.
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 (www.pgc.state.pa.us) under the "Contact Us" section at the bottom of the homepage.
To provide the public with more information about EHD, the agency has posted an "EHD Update" page on its website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). 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 naïve 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 found EHD in early August means that the disease has had the opportunity to be active longer this time prior to 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; Colorado; Georgia; Tennessee; Kansas; Kentucky; Illinois; Indiana; Maryland; Mississippi; Missouri; New Jersey; North Carolina; South Carolina; Texas; Virginia; Ohio; Pennsylvania; and West Virginia.
Jerry Feaser (717) 705-6541 PGCNews@state.pa.us
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
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