Nearly 500 deer in the Hudson Valley have recently died from a rare disease.

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In early September, the DEC confirmed that several white-tailed deer died in Orange and Putnam counties after contracting Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD).

Deer died from EHD in the towns of Nelsonville and Cold Spring in Putnam County and near Goshen in Orange County. DEC wildlife biologists collected half a dozen deer carcasses in Putnam County and submitted the carcasses to the Wildlife Health Unit for necropsy. Tissue samples were sent to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University where the preliminary diagnosis of EHD was confirmed.

The DEC also sent samples from four deer from Orange County where the preliminary diagnosis of EHD was confirmed.

On Wednesday, a DEC spokesperson provided Hudson Valley Post with updated totals and confirmed nearly 500 deer have now died from the rare virus across the Hudson Valley.

DEC wildlife biologists confirmed 211 deer from Putnam County, southwestern Dutchess County and northwestern Westchester County as well as another 237 from Orange County, southern Ulster County and northern Rockland County have recently died from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

EHD is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that cannot be contracted by humans, officials say. The disease is not spread from deer to deer or from deer to humans. EHD virus is carried by biting midges, small bugs often called no-see-ums or 'punkies.' Once infected with EHD, deer usually die within 36 hours, according to the DEC.

The EHD virus was first confirmed in New York in 2007 in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties, and in Rockland County in 2011. EHD outbreaks are most common in the late summer and early fall when midges are abundant. EHD symptoms include fever, hemorrhage in muscle or organs, swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. A deer infected with EHD may appear lame or dehydrated. Frequently, infected deer will seek out water sources and many succumb near a water source. There is no treatment for or means to prevent EHD. The dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals.

EHD outbreaks do not have a significant long-term impact on deer population, officials say. EHD outbreaks occur sporadically and deer in New York have no immunity to this virus. Most EHD-infected deer in New York are expected to die, officials note.

Hunters should not handle or eat any deer that appears sick or acts strangely. The DEC will continue to monitor the situation.

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