Government agencies confirm EHD outbreak in hooved animals

Kimberly Laferty, Gabi Harrison, Adam Studer

Recently there has been an outbreak of EHD, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, in Ohio. The first confirmed case was in white-tailed deer and cattle, it was confirmed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA), Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL), and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Although confirmed to be EHD, many Ohioans have confused the disease with Bluetongue Disease (BTV). The two are very similar in effects and kill deer off fairly quickly.

Most people use those terms interchangeably, and it’s for good reason,” said Clint McCoy, a deer biologist at ODNR Division of Wildlife.  “They have the same symptoms same type of effect on deer, but they actually are two different viruses.”

McCoy said arguably, the most important difference between the viruses is the risk to livestock.

“Bluetongue is considered to have a more significant impact on livestock than EHD,” McCoy said.  “For animals affected with HD, it takes diagnostic testing in a lab to determine virus type.”

McCoy said without this, the two are impossible to tell apart.

“EHD is fairly common,” says ODA’s communication director Mark Bruce, “There’s a large outbreak every five years.”

Bruce claims that EHD is found every year in both wild and captive deer. If a deer is suspected of having the disease whoever found that deer should avoid touching any sick or dead animal.

The ODA released a press release stating that people need not be weary of catching the disease. It is not infectious to humans and can’t be spread from animal to animal, it comes from bites given by small midges that are seen throughout Ohio during the late summer and early fall.

They also reported that dead deer have been found in Jefferson and Columbia county as well as neighboring counties in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.



Data courtesy of:

Photo Credit: Bobby Szabo

Local deer hunter Bobby Szabo has been hunting in Northeast Ohio since he was 8 years old. After 22 years of doing it in mainly in Ashtabula county he says he’s “not worried.”

“November is when the deer rut is, that’s the best time to be in the woods,” Szabo said. “Usually that’s when the colder temperatures comes in. If it gets 32 degrees or below the bugs will die off, its more of an earlier disease in the season.”

The archery season has just began and it carries into later months.

Szabo has tests done to animals he hunts before consumption. Szabo brings them to a butchery in Trumbull County. The deer Szabo hunt, that show signs of being unhealthy, are left to decompose.


McCoy said as for hunters, they are most likely not going to find an animal alive with EHD since it kills them so quickly, but it can happen.

“They are most likely no going to be there for hunters to harvest,” McCoy said.  “But if they were to harvest one, it would be okay to eat the meat.”

McCoy said, however, it is not reccomended to eat an animal that appears sick without testing it first.

The symptoms that arise in infect deer include loss of fear of humans, head hanging low, lethargy, swelling in the neck, mouth and tongue as well as ulcers. Excess salivation as well as a difficulty breathing may also occur due the swelling in mouth area.

The disease may also affect cattle, people should be on the lookout for those symptoms in cattle. Other symptoms include fever, oral erosions and swelling in the muzzle.

Tom Holowecky, who works part time with his dad on a farm as a hobby, said they buried 4 deer in Avon recently. Together they have a farm that consists of cattle and chickens.

“My animals haven’t been affected yet but they are still vulnerable,” Holowecky said. “I’m not much of an expert on this but I’d say it’s still not good to have this disease running around.”

The ODA has alerted veterinarians and will be reporting suspected cases to the ODA. Civilians should also report suspected sick animals or any dead animals to ODA-DOW at 1-800-WILDLIFE.


Gabi – Interviewed Mark Bruce, ODA

Kim – Interviewed Clint McCoy, Tom Holowecky, and created interactive Map, wordpress

Adam – interviewed Bobby Szabo, got photos