Ranaviruses (genus Ranavirus) have been observed in disease epidemics and mass mortality events in free-ranging amphibian, turtle, and tortoise populations worldwide. Infection is highly fatal in turtles, and the potential impact on endangered populations could be devastating. Our objectives were to determine the prevalence of ranavirus DNA in blood and oral swabs, report associated clinical signs of infection, and determine spatial distribution of infected turtles. Blood and oral swabs were taken from 140 eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) that were presented to the wildlife centers at the University of Tennessee (UT; n=39), Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV; n=34), and North Carolina State University (NCSU; n=36), as well as a free-ranging nonrehabilitation population near Oak Ridge, Tennessee (OR; n=39) March–November 2007. Samples were evaluated for ranavirus infection using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting a conserved portion of the major capsid protein. Two turtles, one from UT and one from NCSU, had evidence of ranavirus infection; sequences of PCR products were 100% homologous to Frog Virus 3. Prevalence of ranavirus DNA in blood was 3, 0, 3, and 0% for UT, WCV, NCSU, and OR, respectively. Prevalence in oral swab samples was 3, 0, and 0% for UT, WCV, and NCSU, respectively. Wildlife centers may be useful in detection of Ranavirus infection and may serve as a useful early monitoring point for regional disease outbreaks.
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Vol. 47 • No. 3