Wildlife officials warn of potential deer disease outbreak

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP/KXAN) — Alabama wildlife officials are on the lookout for reports of sick deer after reports of an increase in sickness in neighboring Mississippi.

Employees of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries are monitoring a potential hemorrhagic disease outbreak among deer in northern Alabama. Officials say that in recent weeks they’ve heard reports of people finding emaciated deer and seeing evidence of it on game cameras.

Hemorrhagic disease is caused by a virus and transmitted by tiny biting insects, WHNT-TV reported. The virus causes internal hemorrhaging and hurts the deer’s ability to eat and digest food, Alabama Deer Program Coordinator Chris cook said. Wildlife officials are more concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, which does impact humans if the harvested meat is eaten, Cook said.

What is hemorrhagic disease?

Cornell University’s Wildlife Health Lab hemorrhagic disease is used in reference to two different, similar viruses: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease virus and bluetongue virus.

EHD can cause huge death rates among white-tailed deer, Cornell reports. While the disease most often affects white-tailed deer, Mule deer and types of antelope are also at risk. BT mostly affects mostly sheep and cattle, but can infect domesticated dogs.

Infection of EHD — neither EHD or BT are human diseases — can cause a rapid and painful death, often within 8 to 36 hours, according to Cornell. Signs of deer infection include loss of fear of humans, weakness, and swelling of head and other body parts.

Hemorrhagic disease is also seen in both wild and domestic rabbits, the USDA reports.

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