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W.Va. ag chief warns of disease in sheep, cattle

October 09, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass is warning West Virginia sheep and cattle farmers to be on the lookout for signs of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which has been observed in cattle in Ohio and West Virginia, although confirmatory testing is not yet complete.

It can also be contracted by sheep, and has been observed in deer in numerous states, according to a news release from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

The agency said the disease is spread by the bite of blood-feeding midges - a gnat-like fly - not by animal-to-animal transmission. Because of the similarity of symptoms, it said, EHD is sometimes mistaken for or misidentified as the more serious "bluetongue," although sheep are rarely symptomatic with exposure to the EHD virus, as they are with "bluetongue."

Symptoms of the disease include hemorrhage and ulcers in the mouth, tongue hanging out constantly, excessive salivation, cloudy nasal discharge, lameness and poor appetite. Coupled with environmental stress, EHD is thought capable of causing spontaneous abortion of calves and death of mature cattle.

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"There is no direct treatment for EHD, and we are advising farmers to provide supportive therapy for sick animals and to step up insect control around their herds," Douglass said. "This has been a particularly bad year, but the first hard frost should kill off the gnats and bring an end to this outbreak."

Supportive therapies include extra food and water, medication and intravenous fluids. Farmers are encouraged to consult their local veterinarians for assistance in maintaining sick animals, the agency said.

Anyone with sick cattle or sheep is asked to report it to the agency's Animal Health Division at 1-304-558-2214. Animal Health staff can also answer questions about sampling and testing for EHD.

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