The bluetongue virus typically kills a deer within 36 hours,...

The bluetongue virus typically kills a deer within 36 hours, the Department of Environmental Conservation said. Deer graze in Suffolk County on Aug. 8. Credit: Randee Daddona

A usually fatal virus, called bluetongue for one of its symptoms, was identified in three deer in Southampton — the first time the disease was found in New York State, environmental officials said Tuesday.

“It’s absolutely alarming because it could affect all the deer,” said deer hunter Michael Kelly, 50, of New Hyde Park.

Bluetongue is a close cousin of epizootic hemorrhagic disease. Both are spread by tiny midges. Outbreaks typically end with the first hard frost that kills these “no-see-um” insects.

Late last month, the hemorrhagic virus was detected in two deer found dead, one in Southampton and another in Rensselaer County's Schodack, the DEC said in a statement.

“Diseases caused by the viruses are usually not spread directly from deer to deer, and humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges,” the DEC said. Pets also should not be affected.

With bluetongue, Kelly said, “The big thing for us as hunters is, if you do catch a deer, you don’t know how to test for it, you don’t know if it’s something that’s going to infect those that eat the meat.”

“There is no evidence that the bluetongue virus (BTV) and EHD are transmissible to humans,” a DEC spokesman said. Any game meat should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, “which should kill or inactivate most viruses, bacteria, or parasites present.”

“There is no treatment or means to prevent EHD or BT in free-ranging deer,” the DEC said.

The two viruses cause the same sorts of symptoms: “fever, difficulty breathing, dehydration, swelling of the head neck and tongue, attraction to water, and rapid death.”

Bluetongue typically kills a deer within 36 hours, the DEC said.

The hemorrhagic virus first was confirmed in upstate New York in 2007. A 2021 outbreak may have claimed as many as 2,000 deer, mainly upstate, the DEC says.

 More information about EHD and a link for public reporting of deer with symptoms of the disease is at https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/123773.html.

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