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Outbreak: Nearly 1,000 Deer Dead From Virus That Causes Internal Bleeding

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O'HARA TOWNSHIP (KDKA) -- Deer in Western Pennsylvania are dying by the hundreds, and officials say there's nothing they can do to stop it.

When Sally Meyers looked out her O'Hara Township kitchen window Wednesday, she noticed an unusual number of deer in her backyard.

She didn't think anything more about until, she said, "I let my dog out I saw something looked to me like a dog and checked it out and it was a deer."

The deer was lying on its side next to the patio furniture, dead.

"It's right next to our patio furniture a few feet from our kitchen window, which is really unusual," Sally's husband, Mike Powell, said.

Deer dying in unusual places has become the recent norm in Western Pennsylvania. Game Commission Conservation officer Dan Puhala took one look at the deer in O'Hara Township and knew what killed the otherwise healthy looking animal. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease – EHD – which is a disease the deer get from being bitten by a midge fly.

Puhala says once bitten, the deer's circulatory system is attacked and it begins to hemorrhage internally throughout its body. Puhala says the deer often die in just a few days in or near water.

"One of the symptoms of the disease is a real high fever," he said. "So we think they are dehydrated or they are trying to cool themselves down."

This latest outbreak of EHD was first noticed in Beaver County in August. It has since spread to Washington County and Puhala says northern Allegheny County -- Wexford, Marshall Township, Pine Richland, West Deer, and most recently Indiana Township and O'Hara.

In North Park, which has one of the highest population of deer in the county, Naturalist Meg Scanlon says EHD is really taking a toll.

"We find or smell dead deer, on a daily basis. New dead deer," she said. "At least five a week since late August."

It is important to point out "there is no known threat to humans or kids or even pets," says Puhala. The virus only impacts deer and elk.

Puhala says EHD has claimed about 1,000 deer in the region so far.

"Regrettably I have to tell people we're probably going to find a lot more deer before it's over," he said.

The calls to the Game Commission about suspected cases of EHD are coming in daily.

Discovering multiple dead deer in a single location is not unusual. With pockets of EHD deaths throughout the area, Puhala says the upcoming hunting season could be impacted.

"There may be certain areas where people might notice a pretty substantial decrease in the deer numbers this year," he said.

He adds anyone hunting and killing a deer suffering from EHD will realize it as soon as they field dress the animal. While he doesn't think there is a concern about the meat, he doubts it will be any good.

The EHD issue and the growing numbers of deaths will continue until the midge flies are gone Puhala says, "the thing that kills the midge flies is a good hard frost."

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