LANSING — State officials Tuesday said a deer in Shiawassee County has tested positive for a sometimes fatal disease and more are likely to be infected.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Laboratory and the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory announced six white-tailed deer from four counties have died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease. EHD is a viral disease, the DNR said, found in wild ruminants such as white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk.
EHD cases were identified in Oakland County (3), Macomb County (1), St. Clair County (1) and Shiawassee County (1). Over the last 15 days, the DNR has received reports of 150 likely cases of EHD, primarily from counties where officials have confirmed the disease.
The disease is transmitted by midges. Infection does not always result in the disease. Signs of illness within infected animals are variable, ranging from none to extensive internal bleeding and fluid accumulation.
Illness can come on suddenly and severely, but also can linger for weeks or months in a low-grade state. In severe forms of the disease, deer lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively and finally become unconscious. Due to a high fever and dehydration, infected deer often seek water to lower their body temperature and to rehydrate, and then are found sick or dead along or in bodies of water.
“We are asking for hunters to look around as they hit the field this fall to let us know if they find dead deer, especially any near water,” said Tom Cooley, DNR wildlife pathologist.
Officials said there is no evidence humans can contract the virus.
Deer deaths from EHD in Michigan have occurred on and off since 2006. During these EHD outbreaks an estimated 50 to 1,000 deer died in isolated areas. The largest die-off occurred in 2012, with an estimated loss of more than 14,000 deer. No cases of EHD were confirmed in 2014 or 2015, and few have been reported since 2015.
Learn more about epizootic hemorrhagic disease at Michigan.gov/WildlifeDisease.