Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD) is suspected as the cause of death of over 60 deer on at least two Gulf Islands. However, further testing is needed to confirm a definitive diagnosis.
While there is no known human health risk from the virus, and there is no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans, hunters in the area are being advised not to consume meat from animals found dead, obviously ill or acting abnormally prior to death. As well, research indicates that it is not transmissible to livestock and pets.
A network of wildlife professionals has assisted provincial wildlife health staff to investigate the possible emergence of AHD since deer were discovered dead on Galiano Island in September. Samples from these animals were sent to Canadian and United States laboratories to confirm the cause of the disease.
Since its initial discovery in California, AHD cases are recorded in the western United States annually with outbreaks in some locations. With improved diagnostic tools, wildlife health experts recognize the disease more often. There are outbreaks underway in California and Oregon. However, B.C. has never documented the disease.
Cervids (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 most severely affected. In addition, fawns are far 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.
Here’s some more info from the BC Wildlife Health Program veterinarian Helen Schwantje:
- we are interested in reports of deaths of deer that are unexplained (not in road side ditches with broken legs etc), particularly if there is more than one or two in a specific location - please provide street address/location landmark/GPS to assist with mapping
deer die of many causes and this tends to be an acute death with deer dying in good condition and no external signs of ill health or injury
- we would like to sample/necropsy animals if dead for less than 24-48 hours (this range is contingent on the environmental temperature as samples will be not be of much use if decomposed)
if not sampled they should be buried and all equipment cleaned well afterward. It is a general recommendation precaution that people wear gloves if touching deer and wash hands afterwards - as we can never be sure of what diseases wildlife may carry.
If any Salt Spring resident (SGI resident) notices a deer exhibiting signs suspicious of the Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (foaming at mouth, drooling, short of breath, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), seizures, staggering gait) they are encouraged to contact the BC Wildlife Health Program for advice;
Residents are also encouraged to report deer deaths that are unexplained to the same Program: email@example.com ; 250 751 3234/250 361 7619 or the BC Wildlife Health Laboratory at 250 751 7246