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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 54:1-14 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/dao054001

A model of spatially evolving herpesvirus epidemics causing mass mortality in Australian pilchard Sardinops sagax

Alexander G. Murray1,2,*, Michael O¹Callaghan3, Brian Jones4

1Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory, Victoria Road, Torry, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, Scotland, United Kingdom
2Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Old Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, Scotland, United Kingdom
3Inland Mathematics Research Network, North Street, Eugowra, New South Wales 2806, Australia
4Fisheries Western Australia, PO Box 20, Perth, Western Australia 6020, Australia

ABSTRACT: In 1995 mass mortality of pilchards Sardinops sagax occurred along >5000 km of Australian coast; similar events occurred in 1998/99. This mortality was closely associated with a herpesvirus. The pilchard is an important food source for larger animals and supports commercial fisheries. Both epidemics originated in South Australian waters and spread as waves with velocities of 10 to 40 km d-1. Velocity was constant for a single wave, but varied between the epidemics and between the east- and west-bound waves in each epidemic. The pattern of mortality evolved from recurrent episodes to a single peak with distance from the origin. A 1-dimensional model of these epidemics has been developed. The host population is divided into susceptible, infected and latent, infected and infectious, and removed (recovered and dead) phases; the latent and infectious periods are of fixed duration. This model produces the mortality patterns observed locally and during the spread and evolution of the epidemic. It is consistent with evidence from pathology. The wave velocity is sensitive to diffusion coefficients, viral transmission rates and latent period. These parameters are constrained using the local and large-scale patterns of epidemic spread. The relative roles of these parameters in explaining differences between epidemics and between east- and west-bound waves within epidemics are discussed. The model predicts very high levels of infection, indicating that many surviving pilchards recovered following infection. Control appears impracticable once epidemics are initiated, but impact can be minimised by protecting juvenile stocks.

KEY WORDS: Epidemic · Model · Herpesvirus · Mass mortality · Pilchard · Australia

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