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Hemorrhagic disease of deer found in Virginia: Report

deer on roadways
Photo Credit: Tabor Chichakly

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has confirmed that a viral disease known as hemorrhagic disease has caused a number of deer mortalities across Virginia.

To date, the Department has received 87 reports from 38 counties involving 180 deer. The worst hit area is in and around Bedford and Franklin counties.

Hemorrhagic disease is a common infectious disease of white-tailed deer, and outbreaks occur annually in the Southeast. HD is common east of the Blue Ridge and is relatively uncommon west of the Blue Ridge. HD outbreaks are characterized by otherwise healthy looking deer being found dead or dying near or in the water during late summer and early fall.

There is no vaccine or medication to combat this viral disease, and the best predictor of HD activity is drought.

The disease poses no threat to humans or domestic pets such as dogs and cats. Hunters are not at risk from handling or eating venison from infected deer. Biting flies, commonly known as biting gnats, transmit this viral disease. HD outbreaks typically continue until the first frost kills the insects that carry the disease.

Not all deer that contract the disease will die. However, deer that survive the infection may develop hoof lesions/pain and are more susceptible to pneumonia.

While it is impossible to determine the number of deer affected by the current outbreaks, some decrease in deer numbers in the affected areas may be expected. Deer that act or look obviously sick, either as a result of HD or another infectious disease, should not be consumed.

The Department annually maintains records of HD mortality reports documenting the location and approximate number of animals involved. Please be advised that, unless there are extenuating circumstances, the HD report will not result in an on-site visit by Department staff. Department staff will continue to monitor this situation.

If you have observed sick or dead deer in your area and suspect HD may be the cause, do not attempt to contact, disturb, kill, or remove the animal. Please report the approximate location of the animal to the Department office below that is nearest to you.

  • Blacksburg (540) 961-8304
  • Farmville (434) 392-9645
  • Fredericksburg (540) 899-4169
  • Lynchburg (434) 525-7522
  • Marion (276) 783-4860
  • Verona (540) 248-9360
  • Charles City (804) 829-6580

At present, there is nothing that can be done to prevent or control HD. Although die-offs of deer due to HD often cause alarm, past experiences have shown that mortality will not totally decimate local deer populations and the outbreak will be curtailed by the onset of cold weather.

For more information on HD go to https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/hd/ .


Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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