Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Warning to the Deer Population

An article put out on Promed yesterday (Oct 1) talks about an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in wild, white-tailed deer. Sounds scary, huh? This rare RNA virus is transmitted through the bites of midges. Perhaps some of your have been to England where they complain of midges in the countryside. These not-so-cute creatures are small two-winged flies that feed on blood. A little midge education: Only the family Ceratopogonidae are biting midges and should be approached with caution.

Since September 12, 2007, 29 deer deaths have surfaced in the New Jersey forest area. A bit by an infected midge transmits the virus into the blood of the deer and causes clots and damage to the linings of the blood vessels. These bites are often fatal, as they cause hemorrhages and serum leakages. Deer who survive the initial bite and infection can develop the chronic disease in which development of ridges or bands on the hooves or the sloughing of the hooves may occur. In the long-term, the virus affects deer hooves, making walking, running, and finding food extremely difficult for the deer.

Why so interesting to me? Firstly, deer are cute and the fact that they are dying off is reminiscent of Bambi, a classic Disney tale. Secondly, concern about viral infections often centers around humans. But viruses don't discriminate, and neither should we. We hear today about animal pathogens transmitting from animal to human (ex: avian flu). Who is to say that this won't happen with other viruses? Granted, some viruses are specific to a host and tissues within that host, but viruses are wily and show remarkable flexibility and persistence throughout evolution.

Search Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), midge for more information.


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