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Hemorrhagic Disease (HD) in Deer in New Jersey


Hemorrhagic Disease (HD) is a common viral disease in deer that is transmitted by biting midges belonging to the genus Culiocoides. Hemorrhagic disease may be caused by one of two closely related viruses, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHD) or Bluetongue Virus (BT). Hemorrhagic disease outbreaks in New Jersey typically occur in August through October and end with the first significant frost, which kills the midges. Seven EHD outbreaks have occurred in various parts of New Jersey since 1955 (see Figure below), and the first documented case of BT occurred in deer in 2014.

Historically HD Outbreaks in New Jersey deer have been related to EHD virus. In 1955, 1975 and 1999 outbreaks were caused by the EHD serotype 1 virus, while outbreaks in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 were caused by the EHD serotype 2 virus. The serotype 2 virus occurs every year in parts of the southern U.S., and its recent occurrences in New Jersey raise concern that it may persist and occur more frequently here as well. In 2014, New Jersey had its first documented case of BT in free-ranging deer in Somerset and Morris counties.

Symptoms of HD in deer may include difficulty standing, drooling, lethargy, respiratory distress, emitting foam from the mouth or nose, and swelling of the face, tongue, and neck. Because the disease causes fever, sick or dead deer are often seen in or near water, after drinking or attempting to cool off. Affected deer may also show reduced activity, loss of appetite and develop ulcerations on their tongue.

Clinical signs of EHD may be variable depending on the course of the disease, which may be acute or chronic. As the name implies, the virus (BT and EHD) causes damage to the blood vessels causing hemorrhage within the internal organs. Survivors of the infection or chronically infected individuals may become emaciated in the winter and may exhibit growth interruption or cracks in the hooves.

HD is not a public health issue. Neither EHD nor BT viruses can be transmitted to people, and humans are not at risk by handling infected deer, being bitten by infected midges, or eating infected deer meat -- though the Division of Fish and Wildlife strongly advises against consuming meat from any game animal that appears ill.

Deer exhibiting any of the above mentioned signs in late summer and fall, or dead deer observed in or near water should be reported to any one of the following numbers:

Bureau of Wildlife Management:
    Deer Project Leader - Dan Roberts, 609-259-6962
    Northern Region - Jodi Powers, 609-259-6965 (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties)
    Southern Region - Joe Leskie, 609-748-2043 (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem counties)

EHD virus rarely infects domestic animals, while BT is a known disease of domestic animals, such as sheep, cattle, goats, and even domestic dogs. To date, no cases of livestock illness related to BT have been reported. People suspecting HD in domestic animals should have them tested for the virus. Additional information may be obtained from the State Veterinarian's Office at 609-292-3965.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL) can assist in diagnosing suspected BT cases by offering testing and necropsy services. The AHDL can be contacted by calling (609) 406-6999 or e-mailing

More information about the tests offered can be found on the AHDL website:

Maps showing EHD outbreaks in NJ
Dark colors on the map indicate counties where EHD was confirmed by virus isolation.
Light colors indicate counties where there were suspected cases that were not confirmed.
Blue indicates infections cause by EHD serotype 1 virus and red indicates infections by EHD serotype 2 virus.

For more information on EHD see:
Hemorrhagic Disease of White-tailed Deer - Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Brochure, University of Georgia

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Last Updated: October 27, 2016