ODA reports animal virus cases this week


REYNOLDSBURG — The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory has discovered cases of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).

The EHD cases were discovered in a cow from Jefferson County and a wild white-tailed deer buck from Lorain County, ODA reported this week. Discoveries such as this are not unusual, as cases of this infection have been detected in both wild and captive white-tailed deer in the summer and fall of each of the last several years, according to the release.

In fact, significant disease outbreaks in Ohio have occurred every five years, the last in 2012. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife (DOW) reports numerous dead deer from Columbiana and Jefferson counties. EHD virus has also been confirmed in neighboring counties of both Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

The EHD virus is not infectious to people and is not spread from animal to animal. It is transmitted by the bite of small midges, so infections are often seen in Ohio in late summer and early fall. EHD-associated deaths can occur up through the first frost of the year. Once infected, deer show symptoms within five to ten days and many deer die within 36 hours of the onset of symptoms. People should always avoid touching or handling sick or dead wild animals.

White-tailed deer, along with mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope are susceptible to the disease. Deer infected with this virus may show symptoms including lethargy, head hung down, loss of fear of humans, swelling of the tongue and head and neck, difficulty breathing and excess salivation due to tongue swelling or ulcers in the mouth. Affected deer are often found in or near bodies of water, likely due to fever and dehydration.

Cattle may show signs including swelling of the muzzle, oral erosion, salivation, off feed condition and fever. Affected cattle and sheep may also show signs as described for deer as described above. Such cases in cattle and sheep may mimic other reportable diseases such as foot and mouth disease, bluetongue and vesicular stomatitis.

The confirmed EEE case was from a horse in Ashtabula County. The animal, not vaccinated against the disease, was euthanized in late July after showing neurological symptoms. It lived near a low-lying area that is typically prone to harboring mosquitoes, which can carry and transmit the disease to humans. However, only a few cases are reported each year and most infected persons report no apparent illness.

“The confirmation of EEE in Ohio serves as a reminder to horse owners on the importance of vaccinating their animals,” said Dr. Tony Forshey, State Veterinarian and chief of the ODA Division of Animal Health. “EEE is one of a handful of illnesses that horses can be protected from through vaccination and I encourage owners to talk to their veterinarian and get horses vaccinated soon.”

EEE attacks the central nervous system of a horse. It appears within five days after a mosquito transmits the virus and clinical signs of illness are abrupt. Signs of EEE in horses include: fever, a sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, weakness and a staggering walk. Often, affected animals are unable to stand within hours of transmission and die within a few days.

Horse owners are encouraged to ensure their animals have been vaccinated, to remove standing water from near their home and increase other mosquito control efforts.

If animals are showing symptoms of either disease, producers and animal owners are encouraged to contact a veterinarian who should also get in contact with ODA at 614-728-6220. Sightings of sick or dead deer should be directed to the Ohio Department of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE.

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