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New disease strikes Roseburg deer herds

A newly discovered gnat-borne disease has killed more than 100 deer in the Roseburg area, and local biologists hope it doesn't jump the Rogue-Umpqua Divide into the Rogue Valley, which already is struggling with a similar blacktail disease.

New to southwestern Oregon, the epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, is very similar to the adenovirus hemorrhagic disease already believed to have killed more than 200 urban and migratory black-tailed deer during this summer's outbreak in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Recent lab tests have confirmed EHD in dead white-tailed and black-tailed deer in a tightly concentrated area near Roseburg, primarily near Umpqua Community College, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It is spread by small gnats carrying the virus who bite the deer, has no known cure and cannot be curbed until frost kills off the gnats, according to the ODFW.

EHD can be spread to cattle, which rarely show clinical signs of the illness, according to the ODFW. Neither disease can be spread from animals to humans, the agency states.

Adenovirus is spread from nose-to-nose contact and is associated with unnaturally high concentrations of deer around artificial food and water sources in urban areas or around natural food and water sources in the wild during droughts, when resources are scarce.

"I don't think we have EHD here," says Mark Vargas, the ODFW's Rogue District wildlife biologist in Central Point. "It could be here, but we haven't found it.

"Nobody wants a new disease in their district, without a doubt," Vargas says. "But there's nothing you can do to stop it. You can't control the vector."

The EHD in Roseburg has been found primarily within Douglas County's isolated population of Columbian white-tailed deer, but it has been discovered in blacktails, according to the ODFW.

In the Rogue Valley, the adenovirus-strickened deer have been found all over both counties, Vargas says.

EHD and AHD both cause weakness, excessive salivation and bloody diarrhea. Deer with EHD also develop a rapid pulse and respiration rate and fevers — which is why they are frequently found lying in bodies of water to reduce their body temperature. Deer finally become unconscious and die.

ODFW biologists do not collect dead deer, but they suggest either burying them or taking them to a landfill.

Vargas says biologists in his office definitely want to hear of reports of dead deer when people find them, particularly archery hunters now plying the woods.

To report possible deer disease cases in Jackson or Josephine counties, telephone ODFW at 541-826-8774.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.