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Canine distemper virus in dogs and lions

M. Viana, S. Cleaveland, J. Matthiopoulos, J. Halliday and others

CANINE distemper virus (CDV) has a global distribution and affects a range of species including dogs and large cats. In 1994, a CDV outbreak in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania led to the death of 30 per cent of the lion population and affected several other species. Mass vaccination of domestic dogs against CDV has been proposed as a strategy to protect wildlife in at-risk areas, but there are concerns over the cost-effectiveness of this intervention. This study aimed to analyse data on CDV infection in dogs and lions in the Serengeti, investigate the role that domestic dogs play in CDV infection in lions and the efficacy of mass dog vaccination as a control strategy.

CDV serology data from 535 lions and 6866 domestic dogs, sampled between the early 1980s until 2012, were obtained and analysed. Dog vaccination campaigns were conducted in different parts of the region from 1996 onwards. A mathematical model was constructed using the data to estimate the probability of cross-species transmission and the impact of the vaccination programme.

The model indicated that the dynamics of CDV infection in the region had changed over the study period. Before 1994, there were at least two CDV …

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