Six deer in southern Michigan test positive for epizootic hemorrhagic disease

Contact: Tom Cooley, 517-336-5034
Agency: Natural Resources

Oct. 5, 2021

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Laboratory and the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory today announced they have confirmed that six free-ranging, white-tailed deer from four counties have died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease. EHD is a viral disease, sometimes fatal, found in wild ruminants such as white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk.

EHD cases were identified in Oakland County (3), Macomb County (1), St. Clair County (1) and Shiawassee County (1). Over the last 15 days, the DNR has received reports of 150 likely cases of EHD, primarily from counties where officials have confirmed the disease.

The disease is transmitted by a type of biting fly called a midge. Infection does not always result in the disease. Signs of illness within infected animals are highly variable, ranging from none at all to extensive internal bleeding and fluid accumulation. There is no evidence that humans can contract the EHD virus.

Illness can come on suddenly and severely, but also can linger for weeks or months in a low-grade state. In severe forms of the disease, deer lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively and finally become unconscious. Due to a high fever and dehydration, infected deer often seek water to lower their body temperature and to rehydrate, and then are found sick or dead along or in bodies of water.

"We are asking for hunters to look around as they hit the field this fall to let us know if they find dead deer, especially any near water," said Tom Cooley, DNR wildlife pathologist.

Deer deaths from EHD in Michigan have occurred on and off since 2006. During these EHD outbreaks an estimated 50 to 1,000 deer died in isolated areas. The largest die-off occurred in 2012, with an estimated loss of more than 14,000 deer. No cases of EHD were confirmed in 2014 or 2015, and few have been reported since 2015.

There is no known effective treatment for, or control of, EHD in wild populations. The disease has been seen for decades in many areas of the United States. 

Anyone who discovers dead deer should report it through the DNR's Eyes in the Field reporting form or call the closest DNR Customer Service Center.

Learn more about epizootic hemorrhagic disease at Michigan.gov/WildlifeDisease.