|UPDATE 10/17/2017 - West Virginia's recent outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease is more extensive than wildlife officials initially believed.|
Originally, Division of Natural Resources officials said dead deer in seven counties had tested positive for the EHD virus.
That number has since risen to 12, and more counties might be added.
Jim Crum, the DNR's deer project leader and a wildlife disease specialist, said dead deer have been reported in 24 of the state's 55 counties.
"Those are all the counties that have some kind of reported mortality," Crum explained. "We're still waiting for test results to come back for seven counties."
The counties with confirmed EHD outbreaks are Boone, Brooke, Hancock, Harrison, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Ohio, Tucker and Wayne.
ORIGINAL 10/9/2017 - Division of Natural Resources officials confirmed Thursday that deer in Boone, Brooke, Hancock, Lincoln, Marshall, Ohio, Tucker and Wayne counties have died this year from epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.
Deer get EHD after being bitten by tiny insects called culicoides midges.
The EHD virus causes extensive internal bleeding. Within as little as seven days, deer infected with EHD lose their appetite, develop rapid pulse and respiration rates, and salivate heavily.
Fever associated with the disease might cause infected animals to lie in bodies of water in order to cool off. Death occurs due to internal bleeding.
Deer that die from the disease often have blue tongues, caused by lack of oxygen.
For that reason, many people mistake EHD for another disease called Blue Tongue. Although EHD outbreaks happen occasionally in West Virginia, DNR officials say no blue tongue-infected deer have been found in the Mountain State.
EHD cannot be transmitted to humans. DNR officials said the current EHD outbreak is not related to chronic wasting disease, which has been found in deer in Hampshire and Hardy counties.
DNR biologists expect the current outbreak to end as soon as the state experiences its first frost. Cold temperatures kill off the midges that spread the virus.
DNR officials say EHD doesn't usually have a major impact on the deer population as a whole, it can reduce local whitetail populations by as much as 20 percent. According to the DNR, significant EHD outbreaks occurred in West Virginia in 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2012.
Deer affected by the disease are usually safe to eat, although DNR officials say it's unwise to eat meat from an animal that obviously is sick. Dead or sick deer should be reported to the nearest DNR office.
John McCoy, GAZETTE MAIL