Four fishers (Martes pennanti) from an insular population in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA died as a consequence of an infection with canine distemper virus (CDV) in 2009. Three fishers were found in close temporal and spatial relationship; the fourth fisher died 4 mo later at a 70 km distance from the initial group. Gross lesions were restricted to hyperkeratosis of periocular skin and ulcera-tion of footpads. All animals had necrotizing bronchitis and bronchiolitis with syncytia and intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies. Inclusion bodies were abundant in the epithelia of urinary bladder and epididymis but were infrequent in the renal pelvis and the female genital epithelia. No histopathologic or immu-nohistochemical evidence for virus spread to the central nervous system was found. One fisher had encephalitis caused by Sarcocystis neurona and another had severe head trauma as a consequence of predation. The H gene nucleo-tide sequence of the virus isolates from the first three fishers was identical and was 99.6% identical to the isolate from the fourth fisher. Phylogenetically, the isolates clustered with other North American isolates separate from classical European wildlife lineage strains. These data suggest that the European wildlife lineage might consist of two separate subgroups that are genetically distinct and endemic in different geographic regions. The source of infection as well as pertinent transmission routes remained unclear. This is the first report of CDV in fishers and underscores the significance of CDV as a pathogen of management concern.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4