I wanted to do a follow up story on the “Virus Detected in Ilinois’ White Tailed Deer Population.”

I know that many of you may have questions. So, I called Dr. Colleen O’Keefe, IDOA division manager of Food Safety and Animal Protection and spoke to her about the Virus.

John: If someone has livestock, what symptoms should they watch out for?

Dr. O’Keefe: The blue tongue virus has several different varieties in the US there are 2 forms: one that primarily affects white-tailed deer primarily and another that affects primarily affects livestock (mostly cattle). Livestock (cattle, sheep, goats) do not die from the virus that affects deer. There have been reports of cattle that have developed excessive salivation or drooling, cloudy nasal discharge, moderate to severe lameness, poor appetite, and a severe drop in milk production in a dairy herd. Beef cattle have been affected as well. The virus causing EHD was isolated from these herds. These signs can mimic other more serious diseases and a veterinarian should be called to make a diagnosis.

John: Can other types of sheep beside the Bighorn be susceptible to EHD?

Dr. O’Keefe: Actually Bighorn sheep and elk have not been shown to be susceptible to the disease. The disease primarily effects white-tailed deer and rarely mule deer and pronghorn antelope.


John: Is it safe for people to eat venison that came from a Whitetail that had EHD?

Dr. O’Keefe: There is no evidence that people can become infected with the virus although it is not recommended to kill or eat a sick deer. Generally deer hunting season is late enough that the gnats have been killed off and the deer are recovered or not infected.

John: Can horses become infected with EHD?

Dr. O’Keefe: No

John: How many documented cases are there thus far?

Dr. O’Keefe: Approximately 12 cases but we will continue to see cases until there is a frost that kills the gnats.

John: What type of environment do biting midges and gnats like?

Dr. O’Keefe: Transmission of EHD is via a Culicoides biting fly or gnat. They are found around water sources. This disease tends to occur in late summer and early fall when it is dry and there are more numbers of deer congregating around water sources.


Thank you Dr. O’Keefe for taking time out to answer our questions.


If you have any further questions regarding this story, please feel free to contact me at any time. I have also posted Dr. O’Keefe’s information below.

John Stabley

Vice President of Global Operations

Skinny Moose Media

U.S. Hunting Today

[email protected]

[email protected]


Colleen M O’Keefe, DVM, MS
Division Manager Food Safety and Animal Protection
Illinois Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 19281Springfield, IL 62794-9281
217-785-5680 fax 217-558-6033
[email protected]