Three cases of lethal sheep-associated malignant catarrhal fever (SA-MCF) in free-ranging moose (Alces alces) were diagnosed in Lesja, Norway, December 2008–February 2010. The diagnosis was based on PCR identification of ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2) DNA (n = 3) and typical histopathologic lesions (n = 1). To study the possibility of subclinical or latent MCF virus (MCFV) infection in this moose population and in red deer (Cervus elaphus), we examined clinically normal animals sampled during hunting in Lesja 2010 by serology and PCR. Sera from 63 moose and 33 red deer were tested for antibodies against MCFV by competitive-inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. To test for MCFVs, a consensus PCR for herpesviral DNA was run on spleen samples from 23 moose and 17 red deer. All samples were antibody and PCR negative. Thus, there is no evidence of previous exposure, subclinical infection, or latent infection in this sample. This seasonal cluster of SA-MCF cases (2008–10) may be attributable to exposure of moose to lambs when OvHV-2 shedding is presumed to be maximal, compounded by an unusual extended grazing period by sheep in the autumn.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2