Virginia game officials release deer disease report

Stephen Igo • Updated Oct 16, 2017 at 11:27 AM

RICHMOND — As of Oct. 12, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has received reports of more than 150 deer dying from what is suspected to be cases of hemorrhagic disease (HD) in several counties of Southwest Virginia.

HD is a common infectious malady afflicting whitetail deer, and outbreaks occur annually in the Southeast, although the agency said the disease historically has been rare in the western sector of Virginia. HD outbreaks are characterized by otherwise healthy looking deer found dead or dying near or in bodies of water during late summer and early fall.

The latest HD report for Southwest Virginia shows 33 reports in Scott County affecting 64 deer; 14 reports, 20 deer in Wise County; 13 reports, 36 deer in Lee County; seven reports, 12 deer in Buchanan; 11 reports, 14 deer in Dickenson; one report, one deer in Russell; and three reports, five deer in Washington County, for a total of 82 reports and 152 deer in those counties.

HD poses no threat to humans or pets. No cases of blue tongue, a variant of HD that can cause illness in sheep, have been detected in Southwest Virginia. Biting flies, commonly known as biting gnats, transmit the viral disease.

HD outbreaks can continue until the first frost kills the insects that carry the disease. HD cannot be spread by direct contact between infected animals, and not all deer that contract HD will die.

Hunters are not at risk from handling or eating venison from infected deer. However, deer that develop infections secondary to HD, or look obviously ill, should not be consumed.

The agency said its biologists will continue to monitor the situation and provide technical assistance to affected landowners. If you have observed sick or dead deer in your area and suspect HD may be the cause, call the VDGIF regional office in Wise at (276) 376-4560.