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The Missouri Department of Conservation reports a hemorrhagic disease in Missouri deer


The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reports low levels of hemorrhagic disease (HD) in deer tested in Boone, Camden, Cole, Jackson, Linn, and Osage counties.

HD is a naturally occurring virus that infects deer through the bite of a native gnat fly. It is common in Missouri between July and October when the insect that spreads it is most active.

MDC has received at least 100 reports of additional suspected cases from locations across the state.

“Hemorrhagic disease has been recognized in Missouri for many decades,” said Jasmine Batten, MDC Wildlife Health Program Supervisor. “We receive suspicious case reports every year and ask the public to report suspected cases of HD to the local MDC office or email information to WildlifeHealth@mdc.mo.gov.”


Batten added that hemorrhagic disease can have severe impacts on localized deer numbers over a few years with high infection rates, but disease transmission ends in the fall when heavy frost kills the gnat flies. Deer populations are able to bounce back between outbreaks.

Hemorrhagic disease can be fatal to infected deer, but some of them survive and develop immunity.

“Clinical signs of haemorrhagic disease in deer vary but may include a reluctance to move; difficulty breathing; and swelling of the head, neck or tongue, “Batten explained.” Hemorrhagic disease can cause high fevers, prompting infected deer to seek out water sources. Deer that are sick may appear dazed, lethargic, and unresponsive to “People’s approach. Deer dying from hemorrhagic disease usually do so within a few days and are often found dead in or near water with no outward signs of disease.”

He added that HD is not directly contagious among infected deer and it is not known to infect people.

Learn more about hemorrhagic disease at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/wildlife-diseases/hemorrhagic-disease. Report suspected cases of bleeding disease to local MDC offices or email information to WildlifeHealth@mdc.mo.gov.

HD verses CWD
Batten noted that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is another disease found in Missouri deer that can show similar signs and symptoms to hemorrhagic disease (HD). MDC noted the following comparisons:

  • Symptoms of HD include fever, decreased activity, and swelling of the neck, tongue, and eyelids. Because sick deer are feverish, they are often found near or in the water. Sick deer may appear dazed, lethargic, and unresponsive to people’s approach.
  • Symptoms of CWD include excessive salivation, droopy head / ears, tremors, emaciation, and changes in behavior such as humans’ lack of fear and lack of coordination.
  • Deer with HD typically show symptoms within days of infection, and those that die do so within weeks of infection.
  • CWD can take more than 18 months for an infected deer to show symptoms.
  • HD doesn’t kill all infected deer. Surviving deer develop antibodies for future immunity.
  • CWD kills all infected deer.
  • HD is caused by a natural virus that is spread by gnat flies during the summer and fall and ends when the cold kills the flies.
  • CWD is caused by misshapen proteins called “prions” and spreads through body fluids.
  • Learn more about CWD at mdc.mo.gov/cwd. Report suspected cases of CWD to local MDC offices or email information to WildlifeHealth@mdc.mo.gov.

Hemorrhagic disease (HD) has periodically affected deer in Missouri and other states for many decades with no long-term impact. Deer infected with HD usually become febrile and can be found in or near water.

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