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Blue-tongue disease on the rise among deer in Mississippi

(Source: Pixabay)
(Source: Pixabay)
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 2:04 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State officials say they’ve seen an increase in reports of sick and deceased deer in recent weeks, which one wildlife biologist suspects may be caused by an outbreak of Hemorrhagic Disease, which is commonly called blue-tongue.

Dr. Bronson Strickland, wildlife specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the disease is caused by a virus and is transmitted deer-to-deer by midges or tiny biting flies.

“The virus causes internal hemorrhaging and sometimes rapid death occurs,” he said. “This virus may cause ulcers, which can disrupt digestion.”

Deer who get the disease will develop a fever and seek water to cool off. Deer that succumb to the virus are usually found near water as a result, Strickland explained in a news release.

The disease poses no direct health threats to humans and cannot be transmitted by coming in contact with an infected deer, eating infected meat or being bitten by the insects that carry the virus, according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks website.

Other signs deer have been infected is when their hooves have sloughed off. “The fever a deer experiences while fighting the virus interrupts hoof growth, but the hoof will grow back,” he said.

HD outbreaks are tracked by MDWFP via hunter reports and the occurrence of sloughing hooves from deer harvested each season.

“The HD virus is more common in some years and typically follows a three to five-year cycle. Mississippi has had four consecutive years with low HD activity,” said MDWFP Deer Program Coordinator William T. McKinley. “In the Southeastern U.S., HD outbreaks usually result in less than 10 percent mortality.”

To report a sick deer, log onto mdwfp.com or call (601) 432-2199.

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