Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in White-Tailed Deer in the Kingston, Ontario area

Photo credit: Hamilton Greenwood

At the end of September, approximately 30 deer were found dead on Wolfe Island and reported to the CWHC ON/NU region. The Ministry of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF) were contacted, and a biologist was sent out to investigate. The biologist was able to collect an adult buck and female fawn for eventual transport to the CWHC in Guelph. As transport for these deer was arranged, additional reports from the Kingston area (Gananoque Lake, Stirling, Kingston, and Lansdowne) began to come in of other deer being found dead. An additional adult buck was collected from Gananoque Lake, and all three deer were delivered to the CWHC during the first week of October. Samples were collected and these deer were tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) (except for the fawn), Bluetongue virus (BTV), and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease virus (EHDV). None of the deer tested positive for CWD or BTV, but all three deer tested positive for EHDV.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is transmitted by small biting midges (genus Culicoides, also commonly called “no-see-ums”). EHD is common in the southern United States and some deer in those states have developed immunity, but in the northern states, outbreaks occur every few years and can cause die-offs. The outbreaks in these northern areas are becoming more frequent and it is suspected that climate change is playing a role. In the weeks prior to the Wolfe Island outbreak being reported, there were reports of EHDV positive white-tailed deer in Jefferson County, NY, which is right across the border from Wolfe Island. It is likely that midges from this county were blown by winds across the border to Wolfe Island and eventually to the surrounding Kingston region (as this is typically how these midges are dispersed).

These are not the first cases of EHD in Ontario as EHD was first reported in two white-tailed deer in London in 2017 (http://blog.healthywildlife.ca/fatal-deer-disease-reaches-ontario-first-time/). The clinical signs of EHD include fever, depression, and respiratory distress with swelling of the head and neck noted in some cases. Deer can often be found dead near water. Animals that survive this acute phase may eventually develop inappetence, lameness, and lethargy. The lameness is due to damage to the hooves.

EHDV can infect domestic livestock (cattle, sheep), but disease is relatively rare. If there is ever a concern for EHD in a domestic animal, then please contact your veterinarian. There is no evidence that this virus affects humans, but precautions should be taken by anyone approaching or handling sick or dead animals. Appropriate protective clothing, including gloves should be worn and anyone handling these animals should wash their hands thoroughly afterwards and all instruments should be disinfected in a dilute bleach solution. If you see sick or dead deer, then please contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and the NDMNRF Natural Resources Information and Support Centre.

Contact the NDMNRF Natural Resources Information and Support Centre:
Phone: 1-800-667-1940

Contact the CWHC ON/NU regional centre:
Phone: 1-866-673-4781
E-mail: on-nu@cwhc-rcsf.ca


Submitted by:

Brian Stevens – CWHC ON/NU

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