Tigers in India face lurking threat from Canine Distemper Virus

According to recent study published in Threatened Taxa, tigers face glooming threat from Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) transmitted from CDV-infected dogs living in and around wildlife sanctuaries. It has found that 86% of tested dogs around Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan carried CDV antibodies in their bloodstream. This finding points out that there is increased risk of disease transfer from the dogs to tigers and leopards that live in the park. In 2018, over 20 lions from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary had died due to canine distemper virus infection.

About Canine Distemper Virus

It is highly contagious viral disease that attacks gastrointestinal, respiratory, central nervous systems, immune system and other vital organs of wide variety of animal species, including dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas and wolves. In most of the cases, this infection is fatal. It is also known as hardpad disease. It is considered dangerous virus and is blamed for wiping out 30% population of African lions in East African forests.

Cause: It is caused by single-stranded RNA virus of family Paramyxoviridae (the same family of viruses that causes mumps, measles, and bronchiolitis in humans). This virus is similar to measles virus in humans and rinderpest virus which affects cattle.

Transmission: It is highly contagious via inhalation and can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment.

Treatment/Diagnosis: There is no cure for canine distemper infection. Its treatment typically consists of supportive care and generic efforts to prevent infections.

Way Forward

As a precautionary measure, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has prepared guideline to prevent the spillover of this viral disease to wild animals. Free-ranging and domestic dogs in the area around national parks should be vaccinated which will help to reduce chances of disease spillover to wildlife.

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