The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been monitoring the pervasive Chronic Wasting Diesease (CWD) and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) as the state has seen a steady increase in the two.
CWD has been a serious danger to deer populations and was being monitored in the state for years before it was found. CWD is a neurological disease brought on by midges that cause holes in the brain resulting in a slow death for the animal. In all cases, CWD is fatal. It is passed from deer to deer by direct contact with one another. An infected deer will display symptoms such as abnormal behavior and rapid loss of weight. It has been found sporadically around the state, most likely due to deer and human migration during hunting season.
?We had a lot last year down in Wayne County,? said Greg Harris, DNR wildlife depredation program staff member. ?If men are moving deer, you never know where it?s going to pop up.? Due to migration, the disease can spread quickly and go unnoticed until the death of the animal. As the animals move to accommodate for climate changes and hunting season begins, the risk of the disease spreading to other counties increases.
EHD has been found in Henry County and is a hemorrhagic disease. Deer infected with the disease are often found dead in or near water because the hemmoraging causes them to have extreme thirst. An infected animal will look externally healthy, but will die from complications within 24 hours. ?It occurs most often during drought years because there are more breeding sites and water sources are concentrated,? he said.
EHD has been an epidemic in deer populations and is constantly being monitored. Harris said EHD is not a disease the DNR is particularly worried about because the populations always rebound. There is no known treatment, so at this time they are just monitoring the results. He said that Washington County used to be the hot spot for EHD and last week one deer was recorded as being infected. However he says the conditions have become more favorable in Henry County and the disease is working its way south. ?We know it happens, we track it, but there?s nothing you can do about it,? he said.
However, CWD is a major priority for the Iowa DNR because the population does not rebound due to high certainty of fatality. There is no known treatment; however, the state has set up quarantined areas for affected deer to prevent the disease from spreading further. At this time, it is not believed the disease can spread to humans but all hunters are encouraged to have their animals tested before consumption.