Canine distemper reappeared in dogs in Finland in 1990 after a 16-year absence. In 1994 to 1995 an outbreak occurred in areas with a high density dog population which involved dogs vaccinated against distemper. The estimated total number of cases was at least 5000, and 865 cases were confirmed by indirect fluorescent antibody testing of 3649 epithelial cell samples. The signs recorded by veterinary clinicians ranged from conjunctivitis, pyrexia and anorexia to signs of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness, with an estimated mortality of 30 per cent. Of the confirmed cases 631 (73 per cent) were between three and 24 months of age; 487 of these had been vaccinated at least once and 351 (41 per cent) had a complete vaccination history. Of these 351 fully vaccinated animals the proportion of dogs vaccinated with the most popular vaccine was significantly higher than would have been expected by its market share. In total, 4676 serum samples were collected from healthy vaccinated dogs during the peak and decline of the outbreak and tested for the presence of virus neutralising antibodies. The decrease in the proportion of young dogs with antibody titres <⅛ coincided with the decline and end of the outbreak during the spring and summer of 1995. It was concluded that a critical decrease in the population's immunity during 1990 to 1994 was a major reason for the outbreak in the summer of 1994 and that the ultimate test for vaccines is an outbreak of disease.
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