We present new and revised data for the phocine distemper virus (PDV) epidemics that resulted in the deaths of more than 23 000 harbour seals Phoca vitulina in 1988 and 30,000 in 2002. On both occasions the epidemics started at the Danish island of Anholt in central Kattegat, and subsequently spread to adjacent colonies in a stepwise fashion. However, this pattern was not maintained throughout the epidemics and new centres of infection appeared far from infected populations on some occasions: in 1988 early positive cases were observed in the Irish Sea, and in 2002 the epidemic appeared in the Dutch Wadden Sea, 6 wk after the initiation of the outbreak at Anholt Island. Since the harbour seal is a rather sedentary species, such 'jumps' in the spread among colonies suggest that another vector species could have been involved. We discussed the role of sympatric species as disease vectors, and suggested that grey seal populations could act as reservoirs for PDV if infection rates in sympatric species are lower than in harbour seals. Alternatively, grey seals could act as subclinical infected carriers of the virus between Arctic and North Sea seal populations. Mixed colonies of grey and harbour seal colonies are found at all locations where the jumps occurred. It seems likely that grey seals, which show long-distance movements, contributed to the spread among regions. The harbour seal populations along the Norwegian coast and in the Baltic escaped both epidemics, which could be due either to genetic differences among harbour seal populations or to immunity. Catastrophic events such as repeated epidemics should be accounted for in future models and management strategies of wildlife populations.
A widespread outbreak of tularemia in Sweden in 2000 was investigated in a case-control study in which 270 reported cases of tularemia were compared with 438 controls. The outbreak affected parts of Sweden where tularemia had hitherto been rare, and these "emergent" areas were compared with the disease-endemic areas. Multivariate regression analysis showed mosquito bites to be the main risk factor, with an odds ratio (OR) of 8.8. Other risk factors were owning a cat (OR 2.5) and farm work (OR 3.2). Farming was a risk factor only in the disease-endemic area. Swollen lymph nodes and wound infections were more common in the emergent area, while pneumonia was more common in the disease-endemic area. Mosquito bites appear to be important in transmission of tularemia. The association between cat ownership and disease merits further investigation.
The epidemiological study of a focus of Brucella infection revealed that an outbreak of brucellosis occurred in a small town, and the source of this infection was a domestic cat. As the result of contacts with this cat, six persons, among them three children aged 3, 8 and 12 years, had brucellosis. In all these patients acute brucellosis was diagnosed. Simultaneously with the clinical manifestations of the disease, a rise in antibody titer from 1:50 to 1:1,600 was observed. Brucella cultures isolated from the blood of one of the patients and from the internal organs of the cat exhibited the properties, similar to those of "rodent" strains, i. e. their differential signs permit their classification with B. suis, serovar 5.
The rate and nocturnal rhythm of mosquito attacks of birds and human beings were studied in the open biotopes of Volgograd and its vicinity in 2004. Thirteen and 11 species of the subfamily Culicinae were collected under the Berezantsev bell and from the traps containing a chicken (a hen), respectively; of them 9 species were common. The mosquitoes of an Anopheles maculipennis complex were caught in a small portion to the traps of both types. Most species of Aedes were highly anthropophilic, showed the minimum activity at night and their abundance considerably decreased by the early transmission period. Among the species that were active during the transmission period, Ae. vexans, Coq. richiardii, and Cx. modestus more intensively attacked a human being than birds and Cx. pipiens was frequently attracted into the hen traps. The attraction of each species of the caught varied during the transmission period. The maximum attacks of Cx. modestus and Cx. pipiens on man and birds coincide and those of Coq. Richiardii and Cx. pipiens on man was observed earlier than on birds. A possible role of mosquitoes of different species in the epizootic and epidemiological processes is discussed.
Natural tularemia foci of the meadow and steppe type are extremely stable and become active in those years when the most favourable living conditions for rodents appear. For the first time during the last 30 years a great increase in the number of common voles, accompanied by widely spread epizooty covering the whole territory of the Tula region, was observed. House mice, common field mice, harvest mice and black rats were also involved in this epizooty and 235 tularemia patients with all clinical forms of the disease were registered, the pulmonary form of the disease being prevalent. The cases of the disease were observed among both urban and rural population. In spite of a high morbidity rate, no cases of group infection were registered in domestic conditions and among agricultural workers due to the existence of the numerous immune layer among the population. The formation of this layer resulted from planned vaccinal prophylaxis covering, on the average, 86.3% of the rural population of the region.
An Israeli researcher working in Finland with Bank Voles, contracted an infectious viral disease and died. This was a rare event, but it is important to learn about this class of viruses and to be aware of the hazards while working in the field in close contact with wild animals. The virus termed Puumala belongs to the genus Hanta from the Bunyaviridae family. The natural reservoir is rodents, mice, rats and Bank Votes for the Puuamala strain. The disease is termed HFRS (hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome), is prevalent in Asia and Europe, affecting 200,000 people a year, with 5-15% percent mortality (although in Finland mortality rate is 0.1%). The New World strains cause HPS (hemorrhagic pulmonary syndrome) affecting 200 people a year with 40% mortality. Virus is present in all rodents excretions, and route of infection is by aerosols, hand to mucus membranes contamination, by rodents bites and by contaminated food or water. More than 226 work related infections were documented. Treatment with Ribavirin helps in HFRS but not in HPS. The virus is stable in the environment for long periods, and research must be carried out at biosafety level 3. Working outdoors in rodent infested area, should be carried out using protective clothing, gloves, googles and face mask whenever aerosol producing tasks are performed. Both indoor and outdoor, it is important to adhere to self-hygienic procedures, especially hand washing.