Venison safety tips related to epizootic hemorrhagic fever (EHF) disease

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:30 pm on Friday, October 12, 2012

STANTON — The first day of bow hunting arrived with much anticipation and some concern about the health of the deer population.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has released information about a serious disease affecting white-tailed deer called epizootic hemorrhagic fever (EHF).

The EHF virus is transmitted to deer by the bite of an infected fly. Deer infected with the EHF virus can suffer from extensive internal bleeding, grow weak, salivate excessively, have a loss of appetite and fear of humans, and finally become unconscious. Due to a high fever, infected deer are often found sick or dead along bodies of water.

According to Dr. Robert Graham, medical director for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department (MMDHD), people should not worry about getting EHF if they are bitten by flies. While EHF is often fatal in deer, it does NOT affect humans.

“We want people to continue to enjoy hunting and hiking,” said Graham. “However, there are a few things that I recommend before heading out into the woods to protect yourself from other potential infections.

Until a hard frost kills the mosquitoes, flies, and ticks, Graham recommends hunters and hikers wear long sleeves and long pants to reduce the chance of an insect bite that could possibly transmit Lyme Disease or West Nile Virus.”

Since ticks can spread Lyme disease, Graham says it’s a good idea to inspect the skin for ticks after returning from the woods. “Strip down and thoroughly check your legs and arms and have someone check your back for ticks,” advises Graham.

West Nile Virus remains a concern through the month of October.

Graham would like residents to be aware that the type of mosquito that transmits West Nile Virus is more active in the early morning and evening, so those heading out at those times should plan accordingly. Safety precautions, in addition to wearing long sleeves and pants, include using an insect repellent with DEET, or using a mosquito net to help protect the head and neck.

If you see a deer that is very thin, walking erratically and frothing from the mouth, you should consider the deer possibly infected with EHF. If you shoot the deer and it is infected with EHF, you can still eat the meat.

Properly butchered, packaged, and cooked venison is a nutritious source of protein. If you are unsure about the safety of the meat from a deer, be sure to cook it thoroughly to a minimal temperature of 165 degrees for five minutes before eating.

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