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

Sep 11, 2007, 01:00 ET from Pennsylvania Game Commission

    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
     "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
     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