Disease Identified in Moose

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Preliminary laboratory results indicate that several moose that died in the Fairbanks area this winter were infected with a disease causing symptoms similar to "Adenovirus Hemorrhage Disease of Deer", or AHD.

AHD is limited to members of the deer family, and humans are not at risk of contracting the infection.

This is the first time AHD-like symptoms have been associated with the death of Alaska moose. Evidence of the virus was first detected in moose in the state in 1998 when blood samples from 50 moose from the area just south of Fairbanks were tested for exposure to the disease, and a single animal tested positive for antibodies to AHD.

"We don't know if the virus was first introduced to Interior Alaska moose around 1998, or if it has existed here for a longer period. It's possible that most of the moose exposed to it died so there are very few survivors around with antibodies against it," said ADF&G Wildlife Veterinarian Kimberlee Beckmen. "Until the true extent of this infection is determined, the Department will be very careful about allowing wild moose or other members of the deer family to be moved from one area of the state to another."

During the past winter, 16 moose in the Fairbanks and Delta Junction areas, mostly calves, were found dead from unknown causes. Dr. Beckmen conducted post mortem exams on the moose and discovered ten had lesions characteristic of AHD. Samples from the carcasses are being tested to confirm whether all of the moose had the virus.

Final laboratory confirmation is still required to prove if the virus causing the disease in moose is AHD.

AHD is transmitted from animal to animal through oral and nasal secretions and probably also urine or feces. Because moose are generally solitary animals and don't congregate in herds, the infection rate is likely lower than other members of the deer family.

"We'll need additional funding and further diagnostic testing to see if this virus has resulted in the deathes of moose, caribou, deer or other similar species elsewhere in the state," Beckmen stated.

Moose deaths documented in Delta Junction during last winter (2003-04) were not related to AHD, but resulted from a variety of causes including parasitic and bacterial infections.

AHD has been diagnosed in free-ranging mule deer, captive black-tailed deer and white-tailed deer on game farms in California and Iowa as well as at animal rehabilitation centers in California. Only one adult and three calf moose had been reported with the disease in 1995 and two calves in 1998, both at a zoo in Ontario, Canada.

Moose with the infection have fluid and pus in the abdomen, as well as inflammation of the blood vessels and hemorrhage throughout the body especially in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and brain. They usually appear listless and reluctant to move just prior to death and some are emaciated.