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Following the occurrence of an outbreak of Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) among workers at an ostrich abattoir in South Africa in 1996, 9 susceptible young ostriches were infected subcutaneously with the virus in order to study the nature of the infection which they undergo. The ostriches developed viraemia which was demonstrable on days 1–4 following infection, with a maximum intensity of 4·0 log10 mouse intracerebral LD50/ml being recorded on day 2 in 1 of the birds. Virus was detectable in visceral organs such as spleen, liver and kidney up to day 5 post-inoculation, 1 day after it could no longer be found in blood. No infective virus was detected in samples of muscle, but viral nucleic acid was detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in muscle from a bird sacrificed on day 3 following infection. It was concluded that the occurrence of infection in ostriches at abattoirs could be prevented by keeping the birds free of ticks for 14 days before slaughter.
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