LANSING (WWJ/AP) – A disease that began killing deer last summer has now wiped out more than 8,000 whitetails in Michigan.

Officials believe the number is certain to climb past the current 8,671 reported cases of whitetails killed by the epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, as farmers harvest corn and discover more carcasses.

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According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the often-fatal viral disease causes extensive internal bleeding within deer and is transmitted by a midge, or type of biting fly.

A constant characteristic of the disease is its sudden onset. Deer lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively and finally become unconscious. Due to a high fever, infected deer often are found sick or dead along or in bodies of water.

There’s no evidence that humans can get EHD.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said summer drought and high temperatures are contributing to the high number of cases.

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The infectious disease was first detected in Michigan deer in 1955 and outbreaks have happened in isolated sections of the state repeatedly since 2006. The average estimated mortality has varied from 50 to 1,000 deer per year in the affected areas.

The dead deer have been found in several counties in the lower half of the Lower Peninsula, including Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Clinton, Eaton, Ionia and Montcalm counties.

Some hunters might hold their fire in November to allow the deer population to recover.

For more information on EHD, visit this link.

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