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Deadly disease strikes deer in Iowa and Illinois

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Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials say deer are falling victim to a deadly disease in Iowa, Illinois and several other Midwestern states.

The condition is called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD.  It is spread by a biting midge and is showing up in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.

Deer infected with EHD hemorrhage because cell walls in their heart, lungs and diaphragm weaken and burst.  The hemorrhaging causes dehydration, and EHD also causes high fever in infected animals.

Deer with EHD are attracted to water to fight fever and dehydration symptoms.  That can increase the number of sick or dead deer found near water.

“In dry years it can be worse as deer are more concentrated around water and since the disease is spread by a biting midge more deer can become infected. This could be one of those years and DNR staff have been on the lookout for increased incidence of the disease,” said Iowa DNR Chief of Wildlife Dr. Dale Garner. 

The last widespread outbreak of EHD happened in 1998.  Dr. Garner said the impact on hunting then was minimal. 

If you see sick or dead deer near water, you should contact your local conservation officer or a wildlife biologist, so they can collect tissue samples to identify whether and what strain of EHD is possibly involved.