Va. wildlife officials warn of viral disease in deer

Wildlife officials in Virginia have seen several recent reports of sick or dead deer that the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is attributing to a viral disease called hemorrhagic disease, or HD.

Most of the reports of HD, a common infectious disease of white-tailed deer, are from the Piedmont area in Virginia, according to an announcement on the DWR’s Facebook page.



HD outbreaks, which are common in Virginia and other southeast U.S. areas, are characterized by otherwise healthy-looking deer being found dead or sick on wetland soil or near water during late summer and early fall. Deer go to these areas to cool down when running a very high fever during the onset of the disease.

HD outbreaks are relatively common east of the Blue Ridge and relatively uncommon west of the Blue Ridge.

Outbreaks are more common in Southeast Virginia than other parts of the state.

There is no vaccine, medication or preventive measure for HD, which is transmitted by biting flies, also known as biting gnats or midges. Outbreaks of the viral disease typically continue until the onset of cold weather kills the insects that carry the disease, according to the announcement.

The disease poses no threat to humans or domestic animals, but while hunters are not at risk from handling or eating infected deer, officials advise that people not come into contact or consume deer who “act or look obviously sick.”

The DWR asks that cases of suspected HD be reported to the Wildlife Helpline at (855) 571-9003 or vawildlifeconflict@usda.gov, including details about the location and number of deer involved. They advise that except in extenuating circumstances, HD reports will not result in on-site visits by DWR staff.

Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

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