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Serologic Evidence of Arthropod-Borne Virus Infections in Wild and Captive Ruminants in Ontario, Canada

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  • 1 Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada;
  • | 2 Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada;
  • | 3 Canadian Food Inspection Agency, National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, Winnipeg, Canada;
  • | 4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado;
  • | 5 Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia;
  • | 6 Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Peterborough, Canada

ABSTRACT

Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) are globally widespread, and their transmission cycles typically involve numerous vertebrate species. Serologic testing of animal hosts can provide a routine surveillance approach to monitoring animal disease systems, can provide a surveillance alternative to arthropod testing and human case reports, and may augment knowledge of epizootiology. Wild and captive ruminants represent good candidate sentinels to track geographic distribution and prevalence of select arboviruses. They often are geographically widespread and abundant, inhabit areas shared by humans and domestic animals, and are readily fed on by various hematophagous arthropod vectors. Ontario, Canada, is home to high densities of coexisting humans, livestock, and wild cervids, as well as growing numbers of arthropod vectors because of the effects of climate change. We collected blood samples from 349 livestock (cattle/sheep) and 217 cervids (wild/farmed/zoo) in Ontario (2016–2019) to assess for antibodies to zoonotic and agriculturally important arboviruses. Livestock sera were tested for antibodies to bluetongue virus (BTV) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV). Sera from cervids were tested for antibodies to BTV, EHDV, West Nile virus (WNV), eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), Powassan virus (POWV), and heartland virus (HRTV). Fifteen (9.0%) cattle were seropositive for EHDV-serotype 2. Nine (4.2%) cervids were seropositive for arboviruses; three confirmed as WNV, three as EEEV, and one as POWV. All animals were seronegative for BTV and HRTV. These results reveal low seroprevalence of important agricultural, wildlife, and zoonotic pathogens and underline the need for continued surveillance in this and other regions in the face of changing environmental conditions.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Samantha E. Allen, Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. East, Guelph N1G 2W1, Canada. E-mail: sallen02@uoguelph.ca

Financial support: This research was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs–University of Guelph Research Program (2015–2212), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN-2015-04088), with additional support from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Authors’ addresses: Samantha E. Allen, Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada, E-mail: sallen02@uoguelph.ca. Claire M. Jardine, Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada, and Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada, E-mail: cjardi01@uoguelph.ca. Kathleen Hooper-McGrevy and Aruna Ambagala, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, Winnipeg, Canada, E-mails: kathleen.hooper-mcgrevy@canada.ca and aruna.ambagala@canada.ca. Angela M. Bosco-Lauth, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, E-mail: mopargal@rams.colostate.edu. Melanie R. Kunkel, Daniel G. Mead, Mark G. Ruder, and Nicole M. Nemeth, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, E-mails: melanie.kunkel@uga.edu, dmead@uga.edu, mgruder@uga.edu, and nmnemeth@uga.edu. Larissa Nituch, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Peterborough, Canada, E-mail: larissa.nituch@ontario.ca.

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