Deer Diseases

By uvengwa, Mar 4, 2014 | |
  1. uvengwa

    In my previous article about the dangers of whitetail deer, I mentioned some common deer diseases. But what are these diseases, and how harmful are they to humans? Deer are not domestic animals, and are susceptible to a wide range of viruses, parasites and bacteria. If you are curious about which types of diseases can affect deer, here is what to watch out for.

    Chronic Wasting Disease

    The state of Missouri has been rather stringent when it comes to instituting CWD zones, and various residents in certain parts are restricted from attracting deer. This is to prevent the congregation of multiple deer in a single location, which is how CWD spreads. CWD is not harmful to humans, but it is extremely contagious, which could affect the integrity of the deer population. CWD is a neurological disease that targets a deer\'s brain. This results in the deer acting abnormally, and you could usually spot an advanced CWD case, with the appearance of an emaciated frame. CWD may not be transmittable to humans, but you want to avoid shooting and dealing with a deer that is infected any type of illness, since it is likely that they have a host of other problems, including parasites.


    CWD may not pose a threat to humans, but parasites pose a problem when it comes to meat consumption. One common parasite is arterial worms, a parasite that can infect deer through horsefly bites. The good news is that arterial worms is not infectious to humans, but it is important to be aware of the symptoms of an infected animal. Venison is safe from arterial worms, so simple measures such as freezing the deer meat and cooking it thoroughly will kill any disease. Such symptoms you\'ll find include jawbone decay, tooth loss and facial swelling. This is a disease that primarily infects the head.

    Lungworms (as the name implies) infects the lungs of deer. Unlike arterial worms, this is a disease that attacks the body of deer. This is a disease that you\'ll find in high-deer areas, and the disease is most prevalent in fawns. Such symptoms are lethargy, respiratory issues and emaciation. Lungworms are also not an issue for humans, and sickness will not be contracted through deer meat.

    Nasal bots is another parasite that infects the nasal passages of deer. Adult female flies lay eggs in the nasal cavities and form within the passages. The eggs are expelled whenever the deer sneezes, and they will often come out as an adult fly. However, they are not only harmless to humans, but to the deer as well.

    Hemorrhagic Disease

    This is a form of disease that is sparse in Missouri, but it is an illness to be aware of. The disease itself is not harmful to humans, and the meat is quite safe from hemorrhagic disease, but it can spawn more bacteria that can impact the quality of the meat. Symptoms to be aware of include salivation, swollen tongue and neck. However, not all deer exhibit symptoms. This is a virus that infects whitetail deer, along with black-tailed and mule deer. The illness is most frequent from August to October. Because the deer have high fevers, you\'re likely to find a deer carcass near rivers or lakes. Mortality rates can vary from high to low; however, Missouri deer tend to die faster, since they don\'t have the same immunization as deer from other parts of the country.

    Brain Abscesses

    So far, I have gone through diseases that are not harmful to humans, but this is one case where you should not eat the meat of a deer infected with a brain abscess. Signs of a brain abscess are emaciation, lethargy, blindness and poor coordination. A brain abscess is a bacterial infection that is commonly found in male bucks. This most often occurs due to heavy fighting.


    Ticks will be your most prevalent issue when it comes to direct harm to humans. There has been no documented case of Lyme disease transfer from deer to humans, but the ticks that deer carry are a very real threat. When dealing with ticks on deer, you can do such things as hanging the deer carcass for a couple days to allow the tick to drop down. Take a shower after hunting and wash all clothes, since ticks can affix themselves in places you\'d least suspect. You can also use tick repellant on your clothing. Wear latex gloves when handling a deer carcass. Some of the most common ticks you\'ll find in Missouri are the Blacklegged, Lone Star and the American dog tick. For more information on deer disease fond in Missouri, go to the University of Missouri website.

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