Nebraska wildlife officials say conditions in much of the state are ripe for the spread of deadly viral diseases among populations of big game. They are asking the public to report unexplained deaths or illnesses of deer, pronghorn, elk and bighorn sheep.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, often causes high fever, internal bleeding, swelling, injury, lethargy, increased heart rate, dehydration, salivation, lack of coordination, and loss of fear of humans. The symptoms and spread are similar to bluetongue disease, another disorder that can kill certain wild and domestic animals.
Both are labeled as hemorrhagic diseases and are indistinguishable without laboratory analysis. While the diseases do not affect humans, they can be destructive to populations of big game.
Diseases are more frequent in late summer until the first frost. For both EHD and bluetongue, tiny mosquitoes bite the host and spread the virus to nearby animals. When animals congregate in the water during drought, the insects have the potential to spread the virus to more animals. In addition, infected animals often seek out water for relief and die in or near it.
The latest US Drought Monitor report dated September 29 shows conditions across the state ranging from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry. Drought conditions are most severe in the southwestern and northeastern regions of the state.
Observations of unhealthy big game or unexplained deaths should be reported to the nearest Nebraska Game and Park Commission office. Locations include Alliance, Bassett, Kearney, Gretna, North Platte, Lincoln, Omaha, and Norfolk. Contact information can be found at OutdoorNebraska.gov/Locations.
For more information on EHD and bluetonge, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/EHD. For more information on wildlife diseases, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/WildlifeDiseases.