Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, a virus affecting deer, has made its way to Vermont.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has been monitoring outbreaks of the virus in New York and confirmed the presence of the viral disease in Vermont in a press release Monday.
While the disease is commonly found in North America — particularly in southern states — this is the first time it has been confirmed in Vermont.
Due to the sporadic nature of these outbreaks in the Northeast, regional deer have not built up an immunity to the disease like their southern counterparts and are expected to die if infected, officials said.
While the majority of Rutland County and the rest of Vermont do not appear to have been affected, confirmed and suspected cases have been found in Castleton and West Haven.
For deer, the viral disease is contracted only through biting midges, which are tiny insects also known as gnats or no-see-ums, that are smaller than mosquitoes. Humans, however, cannot be infected with the disease from deer or infected midges.
Currently, there is no real way to mitigate the spread of the disease once deer are found to be carrying it, Nick Fortin, a wildlife biologist and deer project leader at the Rutland office for Fish & Wildlife, previously told VTDigger.
According to officials, there are no treatments currently available for epizootic hemorrhagic disease. However, the first hard frost of the season is expected to end the outbreak by killing the virus-carrying midges, which proliferate in the summer and early fall.
According to Fish and Wildlife officials, deer harvested in areas with these cases still are safe to eat, although hunters may want to consider exploring new hunting areas if their favorite spot has been affected by the disease.
Outbreaks of the virus can temporarily decrease deer populations, but long-term effects on regional deer numbers are not expected. The outbreak is not expected to affect the hunting season unless the disease spreads significantly.
Infected deer typically will start showing signs of disease contraction after seven days, and will usually die within 48 hours of showing clinical symptoms. Signs of the disease in deer include fever, hemorrhaging in the mouth or organs and swelling of the head, neck, tongue and lips. Deer may also appear dehydrated and weak.
Although deer that have died from the viral disease may commonly be found near water sources because of the dehydration it causes, other animals cannot contract it from infected dead deer.
Any sightings of sick or dead deer should be reported to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department via any local state police dispatcher, who will notify the closest state game warden.
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