The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health announced that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been confirmed in a white-tailed deer in Muskegon County, which is the first county to have EHD hit this fall.
The disease is caused by a virus that is transmitted by a type of midge. A constant characteristic of EHD is its sudden onset. Deer can suffer extensive internal bleeding, lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively and finally become unconscious. Due to a high fever and extensive internal bleeding, infected deer often are found sick or dead along or in bodies of water. The first, hard frost should kill the flies.
At this time, the DNR has received reports that about 25 to 50 deer have died in the area. It would not be surprising if more dead deer are found as farmers harvest their crops and hunters take to the field. This EHD outbreak is more in line with outbreaks that have occurred annually for the last decade in Michigan and appears to be localized. DNR staff and volunteers will continue to monitor the situation and follow up on reports of dead deer so that the extent of this episode can be recorded and used in the formulation of management recommendations. Individual deer from other areas have been examined this year as well but none have been found positive for EHD.
Deer infected with EHD are safe to eat. EHD does not affect humans, so edibility of the venison is not affected by this disease. There is no evidence that humans can contract the EHD virus either from the midge or from handling and eating venison. Anyone discovering multiple dead deer, especially in or near water, or those seeking more information can contact their local wildlife biologist at the nearest DNR office.
Because dead deer do not harbor EHD and cannot infect other deer, it is fine to leave carcasses where they are found. It is also fine to bury dead deer at a sufficient depth so that no parts are showing above ground. Carcasses are accepted at landfills that accept household solid waste.