‘Zombie deer’ plauge Ohio and Midwest: What we know

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Deer become infected with a disease that is creeping into Ohio and other parts of the Midwest.

On Monday, police in southern Ohio were called to investigate a bizarre sighting on the side of the road.

“This deer just stood there and didn’t respond to us, just like… like it wasn’t scared,” said James Love, Ohio State Police Department officer for Colerain Township.

According to Love, when police approached the deer, they saw discolorations on its fur and that, despite their proximity, the deer did not move.

“It was a total surprise to all of us,” Love said. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

What makes the deer sick?

What the police saw was a deer suffering from a disease called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

EHD has historically been found in deer in the southeastern United States, where the deer have developed an immunity to the disease. But for deer in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest, where EHD is increasingly common, EHD can be deadly.

When a deer suffers from EHD, it may experience drooling and swelling. However, other symptoms of the disease run deeper into deer.

“They experience a lot of things that are invisible to the naked eye,” said Michael Tonkovich, the deer program administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

According to Tonkovich, infected deer develop a high fever, along with ulcers in their bodies and internal bleeding. Because of these injuries, walking can become painful for the deer, so they may try to move by crawling on their knees.

A deer with the disease may appear listless and listless and may run in circles.
A deer with the disease may appear listless and listless and may run in circles.
Robin Loznak/ZUMA Press Wire

The diseased deer also experience behavioral changes, such as depression. The deer may appear listless and listless and may run in circles.

Deer infected with EHD have been mislabeled as “zombie deer.” Tonkovich cautions against using the term to describe a deer disease or unusual deer behavior.

“The unfortunate label originated with another serious, ever-fatal deer disease – Chronic Wasting Disease,” he said. “As a result, many are now confused about what is killing these deer in Ohio and Indiana. To be clear, it is a hemorrhagic disease, not CWD and certainly not Z disease.”

How the disease is transmitted

Deer suffering from EHD are infected by biting flies known as mosquitoes, or more commonly known as “no-see-ums” (from “don’t see” because the insects are small and hard to see).

Midges carry the virus that causes EHD. So when insects bite a host, such as a deer, they transfer the virus into the host’s bloodstream.

According to Tonkovich, deer that are bitten by mosquitoes and then infected with the virus can begin to show symptoms of EHD within about 5-7 days. About 8-36 hours after symptoms develop, the deer may die.

EHD infections are more common this time of year, especially if the weather has been dry. This causes puddles of standing water and farm ponds to begin to dry up and expose mudflats – mosquitoes breed on these muddy ridges.

“So more and more habitat, more mosquitoes, more viruses, more dead deer,” Tonkovich said. He added that the warm weather also allows mosquitoes to breed, lay eggs and hatch faster.

Mosquito life cycles don’t begin to slow until early November, potentially impacting hunting season in local Ohio townships.

“Not until the first frost actually kills these mosquitoes can we rest on our laurels and catch our breath, assuming we won’t see any further deaths,” Tonkovich said.

He noted that the disease is not contagious to humans, dogs, or cats.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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