Deadly disease detected in MN deer herd

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Valley News Live) - A disease that kills deer has been confirmed for the first time in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Wednesday the first cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Minnesota deer. saying six of seven animals in a small herd of captive white-tailed deer in Goodhue County died of the disease earlier this month.

Animal Health officials say the remaining buck from that herd appears healthy at this time and is showing no clinical signs associated with this disease. This is the first detection of this disease in a Minnesota deer, but it is widespread across North America. It has previously been detected in two Minnesota cows in Brown County (2012) and Murray County (2013).

“This virus is transmitted between deer by biting midges, or gnats, which are most active in the fall before they are killed by the first frost of the season,” said Board of Animal Health Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Mackenzie Reberg. “These bugs can’t travel far on their own and we’re concerned by this detection because the herd owner hasn’t moved deer onto the property for several years.”

The quick and unexplained deaths of the deer earlier this month alarmed the owner, who worked with their veterinarian to submit tissues from the carcasses to the Iowa State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to determine the cause of death. EHD was confirmed by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

EHD affects members of the deer family, but there are no known health risks to people. Many different deer species may be infected with EHD: White-tailed deer are highly susceptible and experience high rates of mortality, most dying within 36 hours of clinical signs. Those include fever, anorexia, lethargy, stiffness, respiratory distress, oral ulcers, and severe swelling of the head and neck.

There is no specific treatment or vaccine available in the U.S.

The Board has notified the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of the confirmed cases in southeastern Minnesota.