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MALIGNANT catarrhal fever (MCF) is a viral disease characterised by lymphoproliferation, vasculitis and erosive-ulcerative mucosal and cutaneous lesions (Brown and others 2007, Russell and others 2009); it is commonly fatal. The antigenic 15-A epitope and base similarity in conserved regions have been used to define the group of MCF-causing viruses (Li and others 2001) and four viruses from the genus Rhadinovirus, subfamily Gammaherpesvirinae, are currently associated with clinical MCF. The disease has been described in over 30 species of wild and domestic ruminant species (Heuschele 1988). Based on the host in which the virus was originally detected, the MCF-causing viruses include alcelaphine herpesvirus type 1 (AlHV-1) from wildebeest, ovine herpesvirus type 2 (OvHV-2) from domestic sheep, whose reservoir host remains unidentified, the MCF-causing virus in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (Li and others 2000), and caprine herpesvirus type 2 (CpHV-2), identified from domestic goats and a pig in Germany (Chmielewicz and others 2001), and from goats in North America (Li and others 2001). These viruses are considered to be usually transmitted directly from the reservoir host.
MCF has been described in at least 13 species of deer. Susceptibility to MCF varies between deer species and is perhaps greatest in Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus), white-tailed deer, sika deer (Cervus nippon) and sambar deer (Cervus unicolor); red deer (Cervus elaphus), elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) and fallow deer (Dama dama) are moderately resistant (Mackintosh 1993, Frölich and others 1998). In deer, MCF typically follows an acute or peracute clinical course (Orr and Mackintosh 1988, Li and others 2000, Crawford and others 2002). Although reports of chronic infection and recovery exist among cattle and deer in particular (Milne and Reid 1990), mortality up to 100 per cent is expected in susceptible species.
Infection with CpHV-2 has been described in …
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