Harrisburg- Pennsylvania Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Calvin DuBrock today announced that test results from one deer found dead in Franklin Township, Greene County, proved that its death was caused by epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). This marks the first time the disease has been confirmed in Pennsylvania.
DuBrock noted that the test was conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia. EHD also was confirmed earlier this year in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
“While we await test results from the other five samples sent, we are relatively certain that they also died of EHD, which was recently confirmed across the state border in West Virginia,” DuBrock said. “Hunters need to know that, according to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, EHD cannot be contracted by humans.”
DuBrock also advised hunters there is no evidence that humans can acquire the disease by touching or field dressing a deer. However, all hunters are encouraged to wear rubber or latex gloves when handling or field dressing an animal, and wash hands and tools thoroughly after field dressing. In addition, he added there is no evidence the EHD virus is spread through consumption of venison, or that the meat is even affected. As with any wild game, always cook meat thoroughly.
On Oct. 10 and 11, Greene County Wildlife Conservation Officers Rod Burns and Randy Crago transported two deer carcasses of the 50 dead or sick deer found in Greene County to the state Agriculture Department for testing, but the results were inconclusive. On Oct. 19, Washington County WCO Frank Leichtenberger reported more than 20 dead or sick deer were found in West Finley Township. Since then, additional deer have been found in other parts of Greene and Washington counties.
EHD is a common disease in white-tailed deer populations of the United States, and is contracted by the bite of insects called “biting midges.” In northern states, EHD usually kills the animal within five to 10 days, but is not spread from deer to deer by contact. While EHD is not infectious to humans, deer displaying severe symptoms of EHD may not be suitable for consumption.
DuBrock stressed that even though some EHD symptoms are similar to those of chronic wasting disease (CWD) – such as excessive drooling, unconsciousness and a loss of fear of humans – there is no relationship between EHD and CWD.
DuBrock also pointed out that the EHD outbreak should have been squelched by the recent cold weather and icing conditions, which will kill the insects that spread the disease. He noted that EHD, unlike CWD, is a seasonal disease and 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,” DuBrock 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.”
Matt Hough, Game Commission Southwest Region Law Enforcement Supervisor, urged residents to continue to report unusual sightings by calling the region’s toll-free number (1-877-877-7137). The Southwest Region serves Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Residents in other counties are encouraged to call toll-free numbers in their respective regions.
In 1996, EHD was suspected to be the cause of death in nearly 25 deer in Adams County. Test results in that case were inconclusive.