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Epidemics of squirrelpox virus disease in red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris): temporal and serological findings

  • B. CARROLL (a1), P. RUSSELL (a2), J. GURNELL (a3), P. NETTLETON (a4) and A. W. SAINSBURY (a1)...

Summary

Squirrelpox virus (SQPV) causes a fatal disease in free-living red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) which has contributed to their decline in the United Kingdom. Given the difficulty of carrying out and funding experimental investigations on free-living wild mammals, data collected from closely monitored natural outbreaks of disease is crucial to our understanding of disease epidemiology. A conservation programme was initiated in the 1990s to bolster the population of red squirrels in the coniferous woodland of Thetford Chase, East Anglia. In 1996, 24 red squirrels were reintroduced to Thetford from Northumberland and Cumbria, while in 1999 a captive breeding and release programme commenced, but in both years the success of the projects was hampered by an outbreak of SQPV disease in which seven and four red squirrels died respectively. Valuable information on the host–pathogen dynamics of SQPV disease was gathered by telemetric and mark–recapture monitoring of the red squirrels. SQPV disease characteristics were comparable to other virulent poxviral infections: the incubation period was <15 days; the course of the disease an average of 10 days and younger animals were significantly more susceptible to disease. SQPV disease places the conservation of the red squirrel in jeopardy in the United Kingdom unless practical disease control methods can be identified.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Dr A. W. Sainsbury, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London NW1 4RY, UK. (Email: tony.sainsbury@ioz.ac.uk)

References

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Epidemics of squirrelpox virus disease in red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris): temporal and serological findings

  • B. CARROLL (a1), P. RUSSELL (a2), J. GURNELL (a3), P. NETTLETON (a4) and A. W. SAINSBURY (a1)...

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