Epizootic hemorrhagic disease

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Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is a hemorrhagic disease of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) caused by an infection of a virus from the genus Orbivirus.[1][2] It is an infectious, and sometimes fatal, virus that is characterized by extensive hemorrhages, and is found throughout the United States. Large-scale outbreaks in wild ruminants affect livestock and the production industry.[3] EHD has been found in some domestic ruminants and many species of deer including white-tailed deer, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope.[4] Seropositive black-tailed deer, fallow deer, red deer, wapiti, and roe deer have also been found, which essentially means that they were exposed to the disease at some time in the past, but may not be involved in transmission. Outbreaks of EHD have been reported in cattle, although it is rare for them to develop disease or die. Sheep may develop clinical signs; however, this is also rare.[2] EHD is often called bluetongue, but this is incorrect. Bluetongue virus is closely related to EHD, and has similar clinical signs, but it is a different disease. Bluetongue is a serious disease in cattle, as well as other ruminants, and can have a significant effect on international trade. Testing at animal health laboratories is necessary to distinguish between the viruses that cause bluetongue and EHD.

Geographic distribution[edit]

The distribution of EHD depends greatly on the distribution and abundance of the biting midge (Culicoides variipennis), the level of existing immunity in deer, and the genetic variations in susceptibility.[5] EHD is found in North America, Australia, Asia, and Africa. Seropositive animals have also been found in South America. It occurs most often in the southern United States, although its distribution is not uniform.[6] In the south, the disease is characterized as frequent and mild, whereas in the north, the disease is characterized as infrequent, severe, and capable of high mortality.[5] EHD can occur throughout Indiana. Outbreaks in Indiana of the disease can be characterized by both significant outbreaks that occur on a 5-10 year cycle that affect the entire state and smaller outbreaks that may only involve a few counties.


Transmission of EHD occurs by a host being bitten by a virus carrying fly or midge. There are many different species of culiocoides that can carry this virus, however, the most common carrier is thought to be culicoides variipennis. Epizootic hemorrphagic disease can only be transmitted by a vector, meaning that EHD cannot be transmitted from animal to animal but only through the initial bite by a vector. Ordinarily, EHD outbreaks will reoccur within an area primarily during seasonal dry spells. Outbreaks will typically result in large die-offs, smaller and more isolated outbreaks can be common.[7]

The midge larvae hatches and lives near the water's edge in the bank. They will grow and typically remain in the submerged mud in water that is less than 2 inches deep. They will continue to live in eutrophic areas as these areas provide the highest likelihood of survive for the larvae as well as the midge and it matures. The midges lifespan can be significantly limited based upon the initial frost, as the frost will kill the midge.[8]

Clinical signs[edit]

Deer may become infected with peracute, acute, or chronic EHD infections. Deer can develop clinical signs in as little as 7 days after exposure and this is most constantly characterized by sudden onset of the disease. In general, deer infected with EHD lose their appetite, lose their fear of people, grow weak, show excessive salivation, develop a rapid pulse, have a rapid respiration rate, show signs of a fever which include lying in bodies of water to reduce their body temperature, become unconscious, and have a blue tongue from the lack of oxygen in the blood.[2] The head and neck of infected deer may swell. One of the most common characteristics of deer with the chronic form of EHD is the sloughing or breaking of the hooves caused by growth interruptions. Deer with chronic EHD often become lame due to these hoof problems.[4] Although they are ill for several weeks, they can eventually recover. Deer with the peracute form of the disease may go into shock 8–36 hours after the onset of symptoms, and are found lying dead.[2] Death is also common in deer with acute EHD, which is generally comparable to peracute EHD and is characterized by excessive salivation, nasal discharge, and hemorrhaging of the skin.[9] Cattle that develop EHD typically have subclinical signs. These infections are less severe than the infections in deer, but they may still exhibit fever, oral ulcers, excessive salivation, lameness, and coronitis (inflammation of the coronary band in hoofed animal). Sheep rarely develop clinical signs, and experimentally infected goats have never been shown to exhibit any signs of EHD.[4] Typically, EHD does not kill livestock, but it may affect the production industry negatively because of effects from the disease such as cattle weight loss and lameness.

Prevention and control[edit]

Protection of livestock stables[edit]

Reducing midges around livestock stables is a good way of reducing the likelihood of disease transmission. To “midge-proof” a stable, several precautions must be taken. One way to reduce entry of midges into the stable is to add screens with very fine mesh. Although mesh will significantly reduce the entrance of midges, it is not 100% “midge-proof” on its own.[10] In addition to the mesh screen, fans can be placed strategically in the stable. Fans are effective in reducing midges because of their small size and poor flying capabilities.[11] Removing breeding pools around livestock is also essential. Midges can breed in pools as small as a hoofprint. Providing a substrate that is well-drained and resists the formation of pools can prevent midges from breeding.

Consumption of Infected Animals[edit]

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease has been shown to not affect humans and there is no evidence that the epizootic hemorrhagic disease can be contracted through midge bites or by consuming venison that has been infected with EHD. EHD is exclusive to ruminants and there have been no reported cases of non-ruminants exhibiting signs or symptoms that are linked to epizootic hemorrhagic disease.[12] Once EHD is contracted the likelihood of other diseases being contracted increases. As a result of the additional exposure to other infections it is recommended not to consume venison from animals that are visibly sick. Animals that are sick may show obvious of signs extreme fatigue and illness, such as; rapid weight loss, lesions or abscesses across the body. Other signs can even consist of foaming or frothing of the nose and mouth (similar to rabies) as well as the decay of walls of their hooves.[13]

Farmed or captive deer[edit]

Currently, no vaccines for EHD are available. Spraying land with insecticides or larvacides could also decrease the risk of transmission.[citation needed]

Management of breeding sites[edit]

Because midges breed in water, management of breeding sites is the best way to reduce the number of midges, though this may not be pragmatic in areas with lakes or ponds. However, preventive actions include stopping troughs from overflowing, making sure pipes are not leaking, and removing any standing pools of water.[10] Reducing standing water greatly reduces midge populations in a given area.


Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been around for many years. It is believed that EHD can be first found and tracked back to around 1890 and has been responsible for die-offs of many different species across North America. Diseases such as blackleg, blacktongue, bluetongue, mycotic stomatitis or hemorrhagic septicemia were thought to have been the cause of many of these die-offs. After further analysis the true causative agent was never confirmed. After further review of the case history and other telltale signs and lesions, seasonal occurrence, and lack of a bacterial agent suggests that they might have been EHD.[14]


  1. ^ Shope, RE; Macnamara, LG; Mangold, R (31 January 1960). "A virus-induced epizootic hemorrhagic disease of the Virginal white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)". The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 111 (2): 155–70. doi:10.1084/jem.111.2.155. PMC 2137250. PMID 19867168.
  2. ^ a b c d Howarth, E. W.; D. E. Stalknecht; P. D. Kirkland (2001). Bluetongue, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, and other Orbivirus-related diseases. Pages 77-97 in E. S. Williams and I. K. Baker, editors. Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals, third edition. Ames, Iowa, USA: Iowa State University Press.
  3. ^ "Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in White-tailed Deer from the On-line Michigan Wildlife Disease Manual". Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  4. ^ a b c Center for Food Security and Public Health. 2006. Diseases Caused by the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serogroup. Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics. http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/epizootic_hemorrhagic_disease.pdf
  5. ^ a b Gaydos, JK; Crum, JM; Davidson, WR; Cross, SS; Owen, SF; Stallknecht, DE (July 2004). "Epizootiology of an epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreak in West Virginia". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 40 (3): 383–93. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-40.3.383. PMID 15465704.
  6. ^ Gaydos, JK; Davidson, WR; Elvinger, F; Mead, DG; Howerth, EW; Stallknecht, DE (October 2002). "Innate resistance to epizootic hemorrhagic disease in white-tailed deer". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 38 (4): 713–9. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-38.4.713. PMID 12528437.
  7. ^ Jr., | By Lindsay Thomas. “Can We Prevent EHD? | QDMA.” Quality Deer Management Association, 22 Aug. 2017, www.qdma.com/can-prevent-ehd/.
  8. ^ Jr., | By Lindsay Thomas. “Can We Prevent EHD? | QDMA.” Quality Deer Management Association, 22 Aug. 2017, www.qdma.com/can-prevent-ehd/.
  9. ^ (CFSPH 1996).
  10. ^ a b Carpenter, S; Mellor, PS; Torr, SJ (September 2008). "Control techniques for Culicoides biting midges and their application in the U.K. and northwestern Palaearctic". Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 22 (3): 175–87. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2915.2008.00743.x. PMID 18816267.open access publication – free to read
  11. ^ Hendrix, Charles M. "Biting Midges - Integumentary System - Merck Veterinary Manual". Merck Veterinary Manual. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  12. ^ Durkin, Patrick. “Facts About Bluetongue And EHD.” Grand View Outdoors, 18 Dec. 2014, www.grandviewoutdoors.com/big-game-hunting/facts-about-bluetongue-and-ehd/.
  13. ^ Association, 18 July 2016, www.qdma.com/know-signs-hd-hemorrhagic-disease/.
  14. ^ “DNR Wildlife & Habitat Wildlife Disease.” DNR - Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in White-Tailed Deer, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12150-26647--,00.html.

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