Virus from midges has been causing deer deaths in Minnesota

Two deaths have been confirmed, and several more are suspected.
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A midge-borne virus has resulted in the deaths of several deer in central Minnesota, the DNR has revealed.

The DNR says that it has confirmed the first two cases epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in wild white-tailed deer in Stearns County.

The viral disease is spread by the midge, a biting insect, and is suspected of causing the deaths of several deer in the St. Stephen area.

Although only two deer were confirmed to have died from the virus, the other deer found were "too decomposed to test," though the outbreak right now is limited to Stearns County.

"All of our neighboring states have been dealing with EHD for years," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. "So it was always a question of when it would show up in Minnesota."

Cornicelli notes that EHD is naturally occurring and seasonal, so the DNR expects this outbreak to be shortened because the soon-to-appear frost should kill the virus and the midges carrying it.

The disease incubates for 5-10 days, with deer typically dying within 36 hours of showing symptoms.

Two other cases of EHD were confirmed in captive deer in Houston County on Sept. 5, but those cases are unrelated to Stearns County.

The disease first appeared in captive deer in Minnesota last October, when it was confirmed in six deer at a Goodhue County farm.

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Neighboring states including Wisconsin and Iowa, as well as several other Midwestern states, report EHD deaths every year, and it can result in hundreds of deaths in local populations, albeit doesn't tend to impact the overall deer population.

It comes as Minnesota continues to mitigate the impact of another, more widepsread deer virus, Chronic Wasting Disease, which has been found in several counties and has resulted in changes to hunting guidelines.

EHD-infected deer tend to be found near water sources, as it causes a fever that drives them to seek water, but they ultimately die from "internal lesions and hemorrhages."

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