Adenovirus hemorrhagic disease is suspected to be the cause of death for more than 60 deer on the Gulf Islands. (Photo contributed by Jill Hayward)

Province tracks potential deadly deer virus outbreak on Gulf Islands

No known risk to human health from the virus

The province is tracking the outbreak of a possible new disease that has killed more than 60 deer on two Southern Gulf Islands.

Although Adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD) is suspected as the cause, further testing is required to confirm a definitive diagnosis.

There is no known risk to human health from the virus and there is no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans, according to a news release from the province. Research also indicates the virus is not transmittable to livestock and pets. Hunters in the area, however, are advised not to eat the meat from dead animals or those that are ill or acting abnormally.

A network of wildlife professionals has been assisting provincial wildlife health staff to investigate the possible emergence of AHD since deer were discovered dead on Galiano Island in September. Samples from the dead deer were sent to laboratories in Canada and the U.S. to confirm the cause of the disease.

Since its initial discovery in California, AHD cases are recorded in western U.S. annually, with outbreaks monitored in some locations. Improved diagnostic tools have enabled wildlife health experts to recognize the disease more often than previously.

Cervids, i.e. mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou, are all susceptible to the disease. Members of the black-tailed deer family, including mule deer, appear to be the most severely affected. Fawns are more susceptible than adults and suffer much higher rates of death. The disease course is usually rapid and fatal as the virus damages small blood vessels in the lungs and intestines.

Acute signs of the disease include difficulty breathing, foaming or drooling from the mouth, diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody, and seizures. More chronic symptoms include ulcers and abscesses in the mouth and throat. Anyone who sees a deer displaying these signs should report it to the Wildlife Health Laboratory at 250-751-7246.

Visit gov.bc.ca/wildlifehealth for more information on AHD and other wildlife diseases in B.C.


 

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