“It’s that time of year” where biologists like Travis Lau, with the PA game commission, say wild diseases that affect all of us are peaking. “Year after year more infections are detected. Greater likelihood of a deer harvested by a hunter, coming back and testing positive for chronic waste disease.”
Researchers say to not confuse hemorrhagic diseases with Chronic Wasting Disease. C.W.D. being a neurological complication in animals caused by a prion, which researchers say is a misshaped protein. Wildlife biologist for the state game commission, Jeannine Fleegle, says C.W.D. can affect their behavior and result in more car vs deer accidents.
However, while Fleegle says chronic wasting disease can take up to a year to run its course, she says hemorrhagic diseases effects can show immediately. “It is transmitted by a midge which is a teeny tiny little flying insect. So, if deer are exposed to it, and they don’t have a real robust immune response, they develop hemorrhaging. So they start losing blood in all these places. As it’s a virus, they usually have a fever and things like that. It can kill deer very quickly.”
She says the sickness appears most around the late summer to early fall, but then it dies out quickly for a noticeable reason. “The upside, if there is an upside to hemorrhagic disease, is because it’s transmitted by the midge, when the first frost comes, that vector is gone. It dies, so the transmission event is over.”
Biologists say that feeding animals like deer can assist in spreading these diseases. They say that’s because they congregate in the same feeding areas. That’s why they ask the public to refrain from feeding them. Lau says each year is different, and that these diseases can either stay localized or spread across the region quickly.