A disease is killing deer in some states. What is EHD? Is it contagious? Can humans get it?

·2 min read

Mike Kendhammer used to wake up every morning, pour himself a cup of coffee and look out at the deer from his dining room window, but nowadays there are no deer to see outside his La Crosse, Wisconsin home.

What happened? A lesser-known disease is killing off deer across the state. In the past year, Kendhammer said he's found 15 dead deer on his property, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources confirming the cause of deaths as epizootic hemorrhagic disease.

“It’s devastated the deer herd in this valley,” Kendhammer told The Associated Press. “It’s like they all disappeared.”

So what is EHD, is there a cure and what are the symptoms?

Is EHD the same as zombie deer disease? No.

Zombie deer disease refers to chronic wasting disease, which is a disease that affects deer's brains and spinal cords through abnormal prion proteins that damage normal prion proteins.

The virus that causes EHD is carried by a biting gnat known as a midge and is both contagious and fatal. The incubation period for disease to develop in deer is 5 to 10 days, according to the National Parks Services. Deer can either die in just 8 to 36 hours or live for weeks with ulcerations developed on the gums, tongue and stomach. In severe cases, a hemorrhage of the skin, heart and gut is present along with bloody oral and nasal discharge, according to NPS.

'Zombie' deer disease: States issue new warnings, confirmations of chronic wasting disease

When is EHD at its peak? Can it affect humans?

Deer populations will decrease due to EHD in late summer and early fall when biting midge activity is at its peak. White-tailed deer are in the most danger, as up to 90% of illness and death has been seen among them, according to NPS.

There is no vaccine or cure to EHD, but there is no evidence it can affect humans.

What does this mean for humans?: Deer in 4 states have been exposed to the coronavirus, USDA study shows.

How contagious is the virus?

EHD cases have been found in New Jersey, South Dakota, Minnesota and Michigan.

Although it is contagious locally, the spread is usually stopped during the winter as the insects don't stick around during cold weather.

However, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician Paul Napierala told the Associated Press rangers should keep a close eye on EHD cases. A breakout of EHD could severely harm states' deer populations.

“The biggest thing is for hunters and landowners to notify the DNR so we can better track the geographic distribution of the disease,” Napierala said. “We really depend on landowners and hunters in these situations.”

Contributed: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is EHD? Disease killing deer in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey

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