Virus among deer expected to be severe in Middle Tennessee this fall

Posted at 5:07 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 07:18:07-04

(WTVF) — A virus affecting deer is expected to be severe in Middle Tennessee this season, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

TWRA said its offices have received reports of dead deer in scattered areas across the state which they believe were killed by hemorrhagic disease (HD).

The disease occurs at varying levels in severity each year across the state, but the reports indicate Middle Tennessee will experience an above average season.

TWRA said the last notable outbreak occurred in East Tennessee in 2017. Statewide, the last time there was a major outbreak was in 2007.

"Reports are coming in daily as TWRA continues to monitor the situation," said James Kelly, Deer Management Program Leader for TWRA. "If hunters or the public find sick or dead deer they are encouraged to report these animals to their local TWRA regional office."

HD is transmitted to deer from biting midges, also known as no-seeums. The virus causes fever, respiratory distress and swelling of the neck or tongue. Deer killed by the disease typically die within three to 10 days of exposure, but not all deer exposed will die. Often the impacted deer are found in or near water as they attempt to cool their bodies from the fever.

"Although some of the clinical symptoms are similar, it is important to not confuse HD with CWD [Chronic Wasting Disease]," said Dr. Dan Groce, University of Tennessee wildlife veterinarian. "Unlike CWD, HD is a virus and deer can survive infection and populations will eventually rebound following an outbreak. Incidence of HD tends to cycle up and down as the environmental conditions are right for the biting midge to breed. CWD, on the other hand, is actually a much greater concern because the causative agent known as prions persist in the environment for decades and in deer populations indefinitely."

For more information on HD, visit the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study website.