JEFFERSON CITY, MO. Officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation say an outbreak of a deer disease called epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in parts of northern Missouri last year rivaled one a decade earlier that killed up to 20 percent of the white-tailed deer in certain areas.
EHD is a viral infection that is spread through the bites of tiny flies known as midges. Conditions that concentrate deer help spread EHD by increasing the opportunity for midges to carry the virus between animals.
Such conditions most often occur during dry weather in late summer and early fall, when deer gather around a few water sources. EHD outbreaks end when fall frosts kill the midges that spread the virus.
The disease does not infect humans, and eating venison from deer with EHD is not dangerous. Secondary infections can render venison unfit to eat, however.
Most of the 1998 cases were between US Highway 63 on the east and Interstate 35 on the west. The area where it was most severe was from around US 24 north to the Iowa border.
Another disease, chronic wasting disease (CWD) has the potential to affect deer, but has not been seen in Missouri yet.
It first appeared in captive deer in Colorado. CWD was first reported in 1981 in wild elk in Colorado. Since then people have reported about 100 cases in wild white-tailed and mule deer and elk from northeastern and northcentral Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.
Nobody in the Midwest has found it in wild deer populations yet. There have been a couple documented cases in captive elk populations in Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.