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Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) is a severe and usually fatal disease of ungulates, including domestic cattle, deer, bison and, occasionally, pigs (Reid and Buxton 1984, Loken and others 1998, Schultheiss and others 2000). The majority of documented cases of clinical MCF in domestic cattle are caused by specific and distinct gamma-herpesviruses, including wildebeest-associated MCF (WA-MCF) due to alcelaphine herpesvirus 1 (AlHV-1), and sheep-associated MCF (SA-MCF) due to ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2) (Plowright and others 1960, Baxter and others 1993). A long-held belief about these viruses is that they do not produce clinical disease in their natural host. However, this report describes a case of severe clinical disease in a domestic lamb that, on histological postmortem examination and sample testing, strongly resembles MCF.
A six-month-old Lleyn cross commercial lamb was referred to the Scottish Centre for Production Animal Health and Food Safety in Glasgow in early October 2011 for progressive respiratory distress that had previously received treatment with long-acting penicillin with no response. On presentation, the animal was in very poor body condition and was tachypnoeic (respiratory rate of 80 breaths per minute) and dyspnoeic. The heart rate was also markedly increased (170 beats per minute) and harsh lung sounds were heard bilaterally on auscultation of the thorax. The animal's body temperature was 40.2°C. No change in lymph node size was detected on palpation. Haematological parameters were all within …