Enzootic stability, potentially associated with acquired resistance and subsequent transfer of maternal antibodies, innate resistance, or both, has been hypothesized to explain the lack of reports of hemorrhagic disease (HD) in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) from Texas. The objectives of this research were to determine the following: how long maternal antibodies to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue (BT) viruses persist; whether fawns from an enzootic site are naturally exposed to EHD and BT viruses while maternal antibodies are present; and whether field-challenged fawns develop clinical disease. Twelve of 52 fawns from Texas were moved to an indoor facility. All 12 (100%) were positive for maternal antibodies to EHD or BT viruses by agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) and serum neutralization (SN) tests. Weekly monitoring demonstrated that precipitating antibodies disappeared by 23 wk of age and serum neutralizing antibodies disappeared by 17–18 wk of age. Fawns that remained outdoors in Texas were not observed with signs of HD. At 14–21 wk of age (October), 39 of 40 (98%) fawns that had remained outdoors were positive for EHD and/or BT virus antibodies by AGID and 32 (80%) had SN antibody titers to one or more of five viruses (EHDV-1, EHDV-2, BTV-10, BTV-11, BTV-17). Antibody titers to EHDV-1, EHDV-2, and BTV-11 all exceeded titers of same-age indoor fawns, suggesting recent exposure. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease viruses were isolated from seven (18%) of the outdoor fawns and all 40 remained clinically normal. Natural exposure of deer to EHD and BT viruses occurred at this site in the presence of maternal antibodies without causing disease. This may be due to acquired immunity and the subsequent transfer of maternal antibodies, but it does not exclude innate resistance as a possible factor in the enzootic stability of EHD and BT viruses at this location.
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Vol. 38 • No. 2