Phocine distemper virus in the North and European Seas – Data and models, nature and nurture

TitlePhocine distemper virus in the North and European Seas – Data and models, nature and nurture
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsHall, AJ, Jepson, PD, Goodman, SJ, Härkönen, T
JournalInfectious Disease and Mammalian Conservation
Pagination221 - 229
Date Published2006/08/01
ISBN Number0006-3207
KeywordsDisease, Epidemic, Harbour seal, Infection, Mathematical modelling, PDV

Two outbreaks of phocine distemper have severely affected harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) populations in European and UK waters. The first occurred in 1988 when the causative virus was identified as a new member of the genus morbillivirus. The second outbreak in 2002 was first detected on the same Danish Island of Anholt and involved similar populations and geographical locations. However, despite the obvious similarities between the epidemics, differences in viral transmission and case mortality were found. Harbour seals are highly susceptible to infection while sympatric grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) are resistant but could be important asymptomatic carriers of the disease. Arctic phocid seals remain the most likely source of the virus and grey seals could be the link between these primary hosts and the harbour seal populations further south. Future epidemiological models should therefore consider including multiple host species. The future conservation and management of harbour seal populations vulnerable to PDV relies on the ability to accurately predict the long-term impact on population abundance and distribution. Although knowledge about the behaviour and pathogenesis of the virus has increased substantially and data on host movements and contact rates are accumulating, studies into the determinants of the host range have lagged behind. The development of more realistic epidemiological models should be combined with studies into the factors controlling species and individual susceptibility. Assessing the risk of infection to endangered but currently unexposed potential host species (such as the Hawaiian monk seal, Monachus schauinslandi) is essential for guiding potential conservation management options, such as vaccination

Short TitleBiological Conservation