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EHD found in Minnesota captive deer herd

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white-tailed deer Purestock
Case in southeastern Minnesota is state's first in deer, but virus has been found in cattle in 2012 and 2013.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH) has confirmed the first cases of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in Minnesota deer.

MBAH said six of seven animals in a small herd of captive white-tailed deer in Goodhue County, Minn., died of the disease earlier in October. The remaining buck appears healthy at this time and is showing no clinical signs associated with this disease.

According to MBAH, this is the first detection of EHD in Minnesota deer, but it is widespread across North America. It previously has been detected in two Minnesota cattle 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,” MBAH senior veterinarian Dr. Mackenzie Reberg said. “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 suspicious deaths of the animals 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

EHD affects members of the deer family (Cervidae) and there are no known health risks to people, MBAH said. Many different deer species may be infected with EHD, with white-tailed deer being highly susceptible and experiencing high rates of mortality. Most die within 36 hours of the onset of clinical signs, which can include: fever, anorexia, lethargy, stiffness, respiratory distress, oral ulcers and severe swelling of the head and neck. Sporadic cases occur in other species of cervids and livestock. There is no specific treatment or vaccine available in the U.S.

MBAH said it notified the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of the confirmed cases in southeastern Minnesota.

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