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Two cases of a rare, infectious disease caused by biting midges and black flies have shown up in cattle in southwestern Wisconsin.

Animal health officials are urging cattle farmers to eliminate the insects that are common carriers of the disease called epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said Thursday.

EHD is a viral disease that causes extensive hemorrhages and has killed deer in the northern United States and southern Canada.

The new cases of EHD -- in cows in Lafayette County and Crawford County -- are the first found in cattle in Wisconsin, DATCP spokesman James Dick said.

State animal health officials said owners of cattle at the World Dairy Expo, taking place this week in Madison, don't need to be concerned, Dick added.

Signs of the disease in cattle include fever, ulcers in the mouth and gums, swollen tongue, excessive salivation, and lameness or stiffness when walking, according to state veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw. It rarely kills cattle, and there is no evidence that the EHD virus can infect humans or that it is transmitted between animals, he added.

“The symptoms of EHD are similar to those of foot and mouth disease. So, farmers who notice signs of illness in cattle are encouraged to immediately contact their veterinarian to rule out a possible foreign animal disease,” McGraw said.

McGraw added that the virus will continue to be a threat to the state cattle population until a hard freeze kills the midges and flies.

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Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.