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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 88:183-188 (2010)  -  DOI:

Comparison of the 1988 and 2002 phocine distemper epizootics in British harbour seal Phoca vitulina populations

Mike Lonergan1,*, Ailsa Hall1, Hal Thompson2, Paul M. Thompson3, Paddy Pomeroy1, John Harwood1

1NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
2School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Glasgow, Bearsden, Glasgow, UK
3University of Aberdeen, School of Biological Sciences, Lighthouse Field Station, George St., Cromarty, Ross-shire IV11 8YJ, UK

ABSTRACT: In 1988 and 2002 dramatic and well-documented phocine distemper epizootics occurred in Europe. While their progression and impact were remarkably similar and consistent over much of Europe, mortality in the UK varied greatly between and within the 2 epizootics. We use antibody levels in blood samples to show that 51% (Bayesian 95% CI: 41 to 61%) of the individuals alive in 5 UK harbour seal populations at the end of the 1988 epizootic had been exposed to the virus, and that the equivalent figure after the 2002 outbreak was 22% (95% CI: 16 to 30%). Antibody prevalence was significantly higher in females than males after the 2002 epizootic. Combining these estimates with information on reductions in the numbers of animals observed hauled out during surveys of the Wash, Moray Firth, and Orkney populations and a simple epidemiological model, suggests that the differences between the 2 epizootics were primarily due to a 27% (95% CI: 8 to 43%) fall in R0, the basic reproductive rate of the virus. The large geographic variation in population effects observed within the UK during each epizootic appears to have been mainly due to differences in case mortality, with R0 being remarkably similar in all the populations investigated.

KEY WORDS: Epidemic · Epidemiology · Mathematical model · Pinniped

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Cite this article as: Lonergan M, Hall A, Thompson H, Thompson PM, Pomeroy P, Harwood J (2010) Comparison of the 1988 and 2002 phocine distemper epizootics in British harbour seal Phoca vitulina populations. Dis Aquat Org 88:183-188.

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