Hemorrhagic (Blue Tongue) Disease in Deer

Hemorrhagic Disease is often called either Blue Tongue Disease or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). Blue Tongue and EHD or separate diseases, but run so closely together in blood test that they are sometimes impossible to tell apart. This disease occurs mostly in sheep, but has also been found in cattle, goats, buffalo, antelope, and deer. Outbreaks in the U.S. occur in deer almost yearly in the Southeastern States.

This disease is spread by biting midges like flies or gnats. Some of the symptoms of this disease are high fever, excessive salivation, and swelling of the facial area and tongue. The blue tongue that gives the disease its name occurs only in a small number of cases. Once the deer is bitten and infected with the virus most symptoms will began to show within a few weeks. The death rate is usually low but tends to more noticeable in seasons of high temperatures and little rain. When a deer is infected with the virus their extremely careful nature is often changed. They move toward water and shade to try to comfort themselves from the high fever. They are less fearful of humans, and lose their appetite for food. Death can come from hemorrhages of the heart or other glands and starvation. The disease is nontransferable to humans. It can only be carried by biting insects infected with the disease.

Blue Tongue DeerThe year 2007 has been a rough year for deer contracting this disease. Farmers and hunters across the southeast have been finding high numbers of dead deer. Mostly in shaded areas, such as barns and outbuildings, or cool areas around ponds. Below is a picture of a deer in my neighbors pond that was infected with blue tongue disease. It showed no fear of humans and allowed people to get close and snap pictures. It never made it out of the pond. The next day it was found dead floating in the water. Even though they say this disease cannot be transferred to humans, I will be careful to closely examine my deer to make sure no lesions or other abnormalities appear. If you find any areas of concern on deer you are considering putting on the dinner table please contact your local game warden to have it checked out.

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– Read our guide to field dressing a deer in our tips section.