During summer and early fall of 2012, the US experienced the largest outbreak of hemorrhagic disease (HD) on record; deer (both Odocoileus virginianus and Odocoileus hemionus) in 35 states were affected, including many northern states where HD typically does not occur. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) was the predominant virus isolated, with serotype 2 (EHDV-2) representing 66% (135/205) of all isolated viruses. Viruses within the EHDV serogroup are genetically similar, but we hypothesized that subtle genetic distinctions between viruses would exist across the geographic range of the outbreak if multiple EHDV-2 strains were responsible. We examined viral relatedness and molecular epidemiology of the outbreak by sequencing the mammalian binding protein (VP2) gene and the insect vector binding protein (VP7) gene of 34 EHDV-2 isolates from 2012 across 21 states. Nucleotide sequences of VP2 had 99.0% pairwise identity; VP7 nucleotide sequences had 99.1% pairwise identity. Very few changes were observed in either protein at the amino acid level. Despite the high genetic similarity between isolates, subtle nucleotide differences existed. Both VP2 and VP7 gene sequences separated into two distinct clades based on patterns of single-nucleotide polymorphisms after phylogenetic analysis. The clades were divided geographically into eastern and western clades, although those divisions were not identical between VP2 and VP7. There was also an association between percent sequence identity and geographic distance between isolates. We concluded that multiple EHDV-2 strains contributed to this outbreak.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2