EHD, sometimes referred to as “zombie deer,” is a viral infection deer get from biting midges. The infected deer can lose their fear of humans and have other neurological signs like circling, weakness, and not eating. Deer that die from EHD often have a swollen tongue, eyelids, neck, or head.
While it’s usually fatal, some deer survive and develop immunity.
The deadly disease has been documented in other states as well. In July 2022, more than 300 deer on a Wisconsin farm were killed after the affliction spread throughout the population.
“It’s a viral disease that affects a variety of different types of deer in Indiana,” Katherine Michelle Benavidez Westrich, a biologist for Indiana Fish and Wildlife, told Nexstar’s WXIN in 2019. “Whitetail deer are the animal that’s most affected, it causes flu-like signs. So these deer oftentimes will develop fevers. For that reason, they tend to seek out water to alleviate those fevers and as the disease progresses, they start to display what looks like neurological science. So they’ll be drinking the water over and over again, they might start having what looks like seizures.”
Once infected, deer can die within 36 hours of onset symptoms. People and pets can’t be infected, and it’s not spread animal-to-animal. EHD deaths typically subside after the first frost, when the midges die off.
Here’s where the infected deer have been found: Athens, Butler, Champaign, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Madison, Perry, Preble, Ross, Union, and Warren counties.
Sightings of sick or dead deer should be reported to local wildlife officials.