A lethal infectious disease has been confirmed in B.C. deer for the first time in the province’s history this fall.
The B.C. government first began investigating deceased deer that were suspected of dying from Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD), an infectious and “usually fatal” viral disease, in September.
AHD was first discovered in California in 1993 but was never before seen in British Columbia.
The province says that since early September, coastal black-tailed deer have been dying of the disease on southern Vancouver Island – near Duncan and Nanaimo – and on several Gulf Islands, including Galiano, Mayne, Pender and Salt Spring Island.
The disease usually kills deer quickly by causing damage to small blood vessels in the lungs and intestines, according to the province. However, it can also lead to chronic ailments, including ulcers and abscesses in a deer’s mouth and throat.
The B.C. government says that there is no evidence that AHD can be transmitted to humans, pets or livestock. However, hunters are still being warned not to eat any meat from a deer that is found dead, appears ill or is “acting abnormally prior to death.”
The province says carcasses of deer that are killed by AHD usually appear in good condition with no outward signs of trauma.
AHD can affect all types of cervids – such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose and caribou – but has most commonly been found in black-tailed deer.
The province says there is currently no treatment or vaccine for the disease, but steps can be taken to help manage its spread.
Transmission can be limited by not moving living, dead or infected deer to new areas, by reducing gatherings of deer by securing artificial feeding or watering sources and by burying deer carcasses deep within the ground. Anyone who works with deer is also asked to thoroughly clean equipment and wear protective gear, like gloves.
Before AHD was confirmed for the first time ever in B.C., outbreaks were underway in California and Oregon this year.
“AHD can lead to localized and short-term deer population reductions where it occurs; however, this disease is still poorly understood and further research is needed,” reads the B.C. government’s wildlife health website.