SOUTHAMPTON, NY — Three deer in Southampton have tested positive for bluetongue, state conservation officials said this week.

The bluetongue virus is closely related to Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease and is transmitted the same way, the State Department of Environmental Conservation said. Bluetongue is not transmissible to humans or pets.

The Southampton cases mark the first time the bluetongue virus was detected in New York deer; however, it was detected in several other mid-Atlantic coast states this year, the conservation officials said.

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The hemorrhagic disease and virus cause similar symptoms in deer, including fever, difficulty breathing, dehydration, swelling of the head neck and tongue, attraction to water, and rapid death. Frequently, infected deer will seek out water sources. Many succumb in or near a water source. Once clinical signs of the hemorrhagic disease or bluetongue infection are apparent, deer usually die within 36 hours, officials said.

There is no treatment or means to prevent the disease and virus in free-ranging deer. Dead deer do not infect other animals. Both the disease and virus can infect cattle and sheep; cattle seldom exhibit signs of disease, but sheep can suffer severe disease and death from a bluetongue infection, officials said.

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The conservation department also reported that two white-tailed deer in the town of Schodack in Rensselaer County found dead in late August, and one deer in Southampton, also were confirmed positive for Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. These are in addition to two deer in the town of Dover Plains, Dutchess County, that died from the disease in mid-August, officials said.

The hemorrhagic disease virus and the bluetongue virus are often fatal to deer. They are transmitted by biting midge, likely Culicoides sp. — small bugs often called “no-see-ums,” officials said.

Outbreaks are most common in late summer and early fall when midges are abundant. Diseases caused by the viruses are usually not spread directly from deer to deer, and humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges, the DEC said.

The hemorrhagic disease virus virus was first confirmed in New York in 2007 with relatively small outbreaks in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties, and in Rockland County in 2011. In 2020, a large virus outbreak occurred in the lower Hudson Valley, centered in Putnam and Orange counties, with reports from the public of approximately 1,500 dead deer. In 2021 the outbreak shifted and DEC received more than 2,000 reports of dead deer primarily in Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia, Oswego, and Jefferson counties.

Outbreaks do not have a significant long-term effect on deer populations, but deer mortality can be intense in small geographic areas, conservation officials said. The hemorrhagic disease virus is endemic in the southern states where there are annual outbreaks, so some southern deer have developed immunity. In the northeast, outbreaks occur sporadically and deer in New York have little or no immunity to the virus, officials said. Therefore, most EHD-infected deer in New York are expected to die. In the north, the first hard frost kills the midges that transmit the disease, ending the EHD and BT outbreak.

Sightings of sick or dying deer should be reported online or to the nearest DEC Regional Office or Environmental Conservation Police Officer. More information about EHD and a link for public reporting of deer with EHD symptoms can be found here. The DEC may collect samples from deer and analyze data from deer reports to determine the extent of the outbreak.

Last year, deer in Suffolk County also died of EHD, according to the DEC.

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