Emergency Animal Disease Alerts - Vol 8 Issue 2 - July 2014

​Haemorrhagic fevers Ebola virus

The largest reported outbreak of Ebola is occurring in West Africa (where human cases have not previously been reported) and is thought to be due to a strain closely related to the Zaire Ebola virus. It commenced in Guinea in February 2014 where 412 cases and 305 deaths have been reported and spread to Sierra Leone (252 cases, 101 deaths) and Liberia (115 cases, 75 deaths). Infection has spread by cultural practices and the movement of exposed individuals. A large number of the cases have involved health carers. Humans can become infected by close contact with non-human primates, antelope, fruit bats and porcupines (i.e. bush meat). ProMED-mail

Lassa virus

Lassa fever virus is endemic in Nigeria, with cases currently occurring. 80% of human cases are mild but 20% result in severe multi-system disease with high mortality. It is a member of the Arenaviridae and the reservoir hosts are multimammate rats (Mastomys spp.).ProMED-mail

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome -MERS

Cases of the novel coronavirus MERS-CoV continue to be reported in the Middle East. More than 820 cases have been recorded, resulting in more than 280 deaths as at 26 June. Mortalities are more frequent in those with co-morbidities (diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease) or are immunocompromised.

The WHO reported the current pattern of disease appears to be repeated infection from camels (25% cases) with human-to-human transmission (75% of cases). The consumption of raw camel meat, camel milk or camel urine is associated with a high risk of infection. Recent work in Qatar has demonstrated MERS-CoV in milk from infected camels. Update on MERS-CoV transmission from animals to humans, and interim recommendations for at-risk groups.

Very high viral loads have been recovered from young camels and re-infection of camels appears possible as pre-existing antibodies are not fully protective.

Intensive camel farming may increase the zoonotic risk. Those handling camels in the Middle-East should wear gloves, eye protection and masks.

Investigations continue to find evidence of MERS-CoV in a high proportion of camels in the region. Positive camel serology has been detected in the Canary Islands, Tunisia, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. Geographic Distribution of MERS Coronavirus among Dromedary Camels, Africa.

Recent serology on stored camel sera from Saudi Arabia indicates the virus was present in 1993, whilst testing of a small number of feral camels in Australia indicates they are free of the virus. Last major camel imports to Australia occurred in 1907. Seroepidemiology of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in Saudi Arabia (1993) and Australia (2014) and characterisation of assay specificity

Lumpy skin disease (LSD)

We reported on the cattle disease LSD in the Middle East in 2013. Outbreaks have continued in Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. All countries bordering Syria have reported outbreaks. FAO has expressed concern LSD may become endemic in the Middle East with the risk of subsequent spread west to the Caucasus and Europe and potentially east to central and south Asia (similar to the spread of African swine fever, sheep and goat pox and foot and mouth disease). Emergency of lumpy skin disease in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin countries.

Control measures implemented included vaccination with attenuated sheep and goat pox vaccines, use of insecticides to control vectors and quarantine.

Heartwater (cowdriosis)

Heartwater is a rickettsial disease (Ehrlichia ruminantium) of livestock and wild ruminants spread by Amblyomma ticks. It occurs in most sub-Saharan countries in Africa and the surrounding islands and in the Caribbean. Major signs are associated with hydropericardium, hydrothorax, congestion of intestine and brain, oedema of lymph nodes and splenomegaly. Fever is followed by inappetence, listlessness, diarrhoea, dyspnoea, circling, muscle tremors and death.

In December 2013 Chad reported to the OIE an outbreak in camelidae. ProMED-mail

E. ruminantium is not thought to be zoonotic but recently positive PCR results for this organism were obtained from three fatal cases of human ehrlichiosis in South Africa. We should not forget these less common diseases. Heartwater - Cowdriosis Aetiology Epidemiology Diagnosis Prevention and Control References.

Influenza A


A H3N8 virus was isolated from nasal swabs from a Bactrian camel in Mongolia. The virus was related to equine viruses and probably indicates horse to camel transmission. Equine Influenza A(H3N8) Virus Isolated from Bactrian Camel, Mongolia.


Outbreaks continued in domestic chickens and geese in the Republic of Korea. No human cases have been reported. ProMED-mail


Because H7N9 produces little evidence of disease in poultry compared to H5N1, it is very difficult to monitor on farms or in markets.

There have been 450 human cases resulting in 162 deaths reported in China. A recent report indicated 14.9% of poultry workers tested were seropositive but had no record of clinical disease, indicating asymptomatic or mild infections. Tests show high H7N9 antibodies in Chinese poultry workers

The following new viruses have been reported:


Influenza virus detected in penguins in Antarctica distinct from all known lineages, including those in South America. Detection of Evolutionarily Distinct Avian Influenza A Viruses in Antarctica


Influenza virus detected in yellow shouldered fruit bats in Guatemala.


Influenza virus detected in Peruvian bats (Artibeus planirostris). Feds: Poultry plants can stay open; New flu strain in bats; Cell-based flu vaccine availability


Tuberculosis has been reported in elephants in the USA (M. tuberculosis), alpaca in Norway (M. bovis possibly ex UK) and clusters of cats (M. bovis) in the UK (with subsequent human infection in a small number of cases) Unusual cluster of Mycobacterium bovis infection in cats.

Scientists in Scotland have identified genetic traits in cattle that might allow breeding of livestock with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis. Genetic find might lead to cattle that are more resistant to TB.

With the increased employment of overseas workers on Australian farms, we should be alert for the possible reintroduction of M. bovis.

Novel reports

Novel Babesia spp. reported in eastern grey kangaroos exhibiting neurological signs, depression and anaemia. The tick vector is likely a Haemaphysalis sp. Observation of a novel Babesia spp. in Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) in Australia.

In January, Australia reported to the OIE the appearance of a new strain of rabbit calicivirus in NSW. Pet rabbits vaccinated against the endemic strain were not protected.

Mojiang paramyxovirus, a novel henipa-like virus, has been detected in rats in China. The virus associated with severe pneumonia and death in three mine workers. Bats may not be the only reservoirs of henipa viruses. Novel Henipa-like Virus, Mojiang Paramyxovirus, in Rats, China, 2012

Salmonella Cotham has been isolated from 145 people (57% <5 years old) in 31 states in the USA associated with the keeping of bearded dragons (Pogona sp.) as pets. Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Cotham and Salmonella Kisarawe Infections Linked to Contact with Pet Bearded Dragons.

A new phlebovirus, the Hunter Island Group virus, has been isolated from shy albatrosses (Thalassarche cauta) and ticks (Ixodes eudyptidis) in north western Tasmania following deaths in albatrosses in 2002. The virus is closely related to Heartland virus, recently isolated from 2 men in the USA with fever, diarrhoea, fatigue and leucopaenia, and severe fever with thrombocytopaenia syndrome virus, which has caused illness and deaths in humans in China, Japan and Korea. Novel Phlebovirus with Zoonotic Potential Isolated from Ticks, Australia.


You may be looking at the first case and you do not want to become famous as the vet who missed it!
Use the hotline number 1800 675 888 as hundreds of your colleagues do each year.

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