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Bluetongue Found In NY Deer, First Time Fatal Virus Confirmed In State

Bluetongue virus has been found in New York deer for the first time.
Bluetongue virus has been found in New York deer for the first time. Photo Credit: Stephen Sheppard on Unsplash

Wildlife officials have confirmed the first case of bluetongue virus in New York deer.

Testing revealed the virus was present in three deer on Long Island, in Southampton, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said.

Bluetongue (BT) virus is closely related to the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) virus and is transmitted in the same way, through the bites of insects called midges, according to wildlife officials.

Transmission usually occurs in late summer and early fall.

Both viruses are often fatal to deer, with many animals dying within 36 hours of showing symptoms.

Humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges, the DEC said.

Symptoms are similar for BT and EHD, and include fever, difficulty breathing, dehydration, and swelling of the head, neck and tongue.

Infected deer will often look for water sources, with many animals found dead in or near the water, officials said.

BT was spotted in several other Atlantic coast states earlier in 2022.

Two white-tailed deer found dead in Rensselaer County in August 2022 were confirmed to have EHD, as were two deer found dead in Dutchess County.

One deer in Suffolk County was confirmed positive for EHD.

Both diseases can also affect cattle and sheep, though cattle often do not show symptoms, officials said.

They added that there is currently no treatment or means to prevent BT or EHD from infecting free-ranging deer.

The first known cases of the EHD virus in New York deer were confirmed in 2007 in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties.

Cases were also reported in Rockland County in 2011

A large EHD outbreak hit the lower Hudson Valley in 2020, killing approximately 1,500 deer in Putnam and Orange counties, the DEC said.

In 2021, officials received more than 2,000 reports of dead deer, mostly in Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia, Oswego, and Jefferson counties.

Wildlife officials said EHD and BT outbreaks end after the first hard frost kills the insects that transmit the disease.

Those who encounter sick or dying deer are asked to report it to the DEC through its online portal

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