Potentially fatal disease could pose risk to deer

out buckAn outbreak of a disease spread by biting gnats has turned up deer populations in several foothill counties.

N.C. Wildlife Commission biologists first began seeing deer afflicted with the disease this summer in Wilkes and Surry counties. In August, reports of the disease also began coming from Caldwell, Burke, McDowell, Rutherford and Buncombe counties.

The disease has no human health implications, but is one of the most significant endemic viral and sometimes fatal diseases of white-tailed deer in the southeastern U.S.

Spread by a biting midge (or gnat), the virus enters deer through the blood stream. Common symptoms include emaciation, loss of motor control, fever, lameness and swelling of the neck and head. Infected deer often seek relief near bodies of water, resulting in a higher frequency of dead deer near creeks, rivers and ponds than on adjacent uplands.

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