Within the past month, nearby Fenton police officers have put down six deer with a condition called Blue Tongue Disease. All deer were emaciated and could only crawl a few feet, according to Fenton community policing officer Aaron Dilks. Police received calls from residents who reported injured deer in their yards.
St. Louis County Police Department-Wildwood (6th) Precinct officers indicated they have not yet seen any of these deer, nor been called to handle deer perceived to be affected by this condition.
Dilks said that although Blue Tongue disease may sound scary, it actually is present every year. Blue Tongue, more specifically known as Hemorrhagic Disease (HD), is a general term for epizootic hemorrhagic disease and bluetongue virus, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Both diseases are closely related, have similar clinical signs and are spread by a small, biting midge fly. White-tailed, mule and black-tailed deer all are susceptible. Cattle and goats are not affected or show only mild signs of being sick. Sheep are susceptible only to bluetongue virus.
As of Oct. 3, an MDC map indicated 19 reported instances of HD in St. Louis County; 31 in Jefferson County. MDC representatives also state although the map might specify that a county has few or no reports, this does not mean that HD is not present, but that MDC is not receiving reports. Also, just because a county shows high report numbers, often these are localized, therefore the whole county might not experience HD.
This year, HD deer deaths are on the rise due to the extremely dry summer, according to the MDC. HD is being spread more quickly because the deer concentrate around the limited water supplies where midges also live.
According to MDC spokespersons: “Humans do not get hemorrhagic disease, so handling and consumption of meat from deer that have recovered from the disease pose no health hazard.”
Typical symptoms of HD in a deer include fever; excessive salivation; swollen neck, tongue or eyelids; sloughed or interrupted growth of hooves, and reduced activity and/or emaciation, according to the MDC. Deer usually die 8 to 36 hours after contracting the virus. The virus dies 24 hours after the deer has died.
Dilks advises: "If you find a wounded or sick deer, call the police department. We will handle the situation and if needed, report the case to the Missouri Department of Conservation."