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Known deer disease EHD discovered in southeast Minnesota

EHD, or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, has been confirmed in six captive deer in southeast Minnesota. EHD affects members of the deer family, and whitetails are highly susceptible. File photo / Minnesota DNR

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has confirmed the first cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease — known as EHD, for short — in Minnesota deer. Six of seven animals in a small herd of captive white-tailed deer in Goodhue County in southeast Minnesota died of the disease earlier this month. The remaining buck appears healthy at this time and is showing no clinical signs associated with the disease.

This is the first detection of this disease in a Minnesota deer, yet it is widespread across North America and occasionally has occurred in deer in southwest North Dakota. It previously infected two Minnesota cattle in Brown County in 2012 and Murray County in 2013.

"This virus is transmitted between deer by biting midges, or gnats, which are most active in the fall before they are killed by the first frost of the season," said Board of Animal Health Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Mackenzie Reberg. "These bugs can't travel far on their own and we're concerned by this detection because the herd owner hasn't moved deer onto the property for several years."

In a news release, the board said the quick and suspicious deaths of the animals earlier this month alarmed the owner, who worked with a veterinarian to submit tissues from the carcasses to the Iowa State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to determine the cause of death. EHD was confirmed by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

EHD affects members of the deer family, Cervidae, and there are no known health risks to people. Many different deer species may be infected with EHD, and white-tailed deer are highly susceptible and experience high rates of mortality. Most die within 36 hours of clinical signs, which can include fever, anorexia, lethargy, stiffness, respiratory distress, oral ulcers, and severe swelling of the head and neck. Sporadic cases occur in other species of cervids and hoofstock. There is no specific treatment or vaccine available in the U.S.

The Board has notified the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of the confirmed cases in southeast Minnesota.

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