The Missouri Department of Conservation is reporting low levels of hemorrhagic disease in the state’s deer population.
According to the department, the disease is a naturally occurring virus that infects deer through the bite of a native midge fly. It is common in Missouri between July and October when the insect that spreads it is most active.
Hemorrhagic disease in deer has been recently confirmed through diagnostic testing in Boone, Camden, Cole, Jackson, Linn and Osage counties.
Jasmine Batten, wildlife health program supervisor, said the conservation department has received at least 100 reports of additional suspected cases from locations throughout the state.
“Hemorrhagic disease has been recognized in Missouri for many decades,” Batten said. “We get reports of suspected cases every year and ask the public to report suspected cases.”
In North America, the two viruses that cause hemorrhagic disease are the epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus and the bluetongue virus.
Batten said hemorrhagic disease can have severe impacts on localized deer numbers during some years with high infection rates, but transmission of the disease ends in the fall when heavy frost kills the midge flies.
She said deer populations are able to recover between outbreaks.
Hemorrhagic disease can be fatal to infected deer, but some survive and develop immunity.
“Clinical signs of hemorrhagic disease in deer vary but may include an unwillingness to move, difficulty breathing and swelling of the head, neck or tongue,” Batten said. “Hemorrhagic disease can cause a high fever, prompting infected deer to seek out water sources. Deer that are sick may appear dazed, lethargic and unresponsive to the approach of people. Deer that die from hemorrhagic disease usually do so in a matter of days and are often found dead in or near water with no outward signs of illness.”
She said that the disease is not directly contagious between infected deer and it is not known to infect people.
She said that chronic wasting disease is another disease found in Missouri deer that can show signs and symptoms similar to hemorrhagic disease.
Chronic wasting disease can take more than 18 months for an infected deer to show symptoms. It is caused by misshapen proteins called “prions” and is spread through body fluids, which results in a higher mortality rate.
The public is asked to report suspected cases of hemorrhagic disease to local conservation offices or to email information to WildlifeHealth@mdc.mo.gov.