Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) officials have confirmed the discovery of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) – a virus that commonly affects white-tailed deer – in a Portage County cattle herd. Officials stress that EHD poses no threat to human health or to the safety of meat consumption.
The ODA Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Reynoldsburg confirmed EHD in cattle in northeast Ohio. The virus occurs annually in deer herds in some parts of North America but is less common in cattle. The disease in cattle may cause fever, lameness, and sore mouths. Most cattle recover within a few days. In deer, EHD is typically fatal.
Both cattle and deer contract EHD from gnats or biting flies. The virus cannot be spread from animal to animal or from animal to humans. Insects, however, can contract the virus from infected deer or cattle and pass it on to surrounding populations. This summer’s drought has forced animals and insects to common watering spots, increasing the spread of EHD. Typically, the onset of cold weather suppresses the disease as frosts drives insects into winter inactivity.
State wildlife and animal health officials have confirmed localized outbreaks of EHD in white-tailed deer in ten Ohio counties including Ashtabula, Columbiana, Geauga, Guernsey, Holmes, Paulding, Portage, Preble, Ross and Summit.
According to the University of Georgia’s annual Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS), EHD is the most common ailment affecting deer in the Eastern United States. The disease is common in portions of the northern Great Plains and the southeastern United States. It was first identified in 1955 in New Jersey. SCWDS has received EHD reports from much of the United States this year and to date has confirmed deer mortality due to EHD in 15 states.
Mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope are also susceptible to the disease.