State tracking disease using deer blood

Posted Nov. 07, 2011, at 9:41 a.m.

WATERVILLE, Maine — Maine’s deer hunters are doing their part in tracking Eastern equine encephalitis.

For three years, state epidemiologists have taken blood samples from harvested deer at tagging stations.

Deer do not seem to become ill from being bitten by a mosquito carrying EEE, but they do produce an antibody to fight it, according to Dr. Stephen Sears. Researchers track the prevalence of that antibody in dead deer to help track the spread of EEE.

EEE is potentially fatal for humans and horses.

Sears tells the Morning Sentinel that their findings indicate that EEE is more widespread in the state than previously thought.

He says hunters have been cooperative in the voluntary program.

Sears also says humans can’t catch EEE from eating the venison.