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Kentucky Deer Found With EHD

Jenn Smith

Posted on August 23 2019

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and Murray State University's Breathitt Veterinary Center have confirmed the state's first 2019 case of hemorrhagic disease in a white-tailed deer.  

The case involves a dead female deer from Graves County in Western Kentucky that tested positive for the disease, which is sometimes called "blue tongue" or "EHD," according to a press release from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.  

Officials are investigating how wide-spread the issue is, looking into cases of 22 deer in 11 Kentucky counties.

Those numbers, the statement said, are expected to keep growing in the coming weeks. Outbreaks last until frost kills the flies that carry the disease. 

“Hemorrhagic disease cannot be transmitted to people or pets,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's wildlife veterinarian Dr. Christine Casey said in a press release. “It is caused by two different viruses: epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHD) and bluetongue virus. These viruses are transmitted to deer by small biting flies, also called no-see-ums.”

The disease, which has been in the country for 60 years, hits Kentucky in small areas each year, the statement said. Statewide outbreaks hit in five-year cycles, and Kentucky's last regional outbreak happened two years ago. Far Western Kentucky had an outbreak in 2012, the statement said, and the last statewide outbreak hit was in 2007. 

Hemorrhagic disease shouldn't be confused with chronic wasting disease, officials said. Unlike the latter, hemorrhagic disease isn't always fatal and deer can develop antibodies to defend against it. Deer that die from the disease will do so usually withing 24 to 36 hours after being infected. 

The only confirmed case, though, was the one in Grave County. 

“Kentucky’s archery deer hunting season opens early next month,” Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, reminded hunters in the statement. “The department is asking hunters and others to be on the lookout for sick looking deer.

“Deer with hemorrhagic disease can be more susceptible to other diseases. For that reason, the department always cautions against eating the meat from a deer that doesn’t appear to be healthy.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials are asking for any sightings of the disease to be reported to them via phone at 1-800-858-1549 during work hours or through the official website at 

Posted from Courier Journal. Written by Sarah Ladd