Management measures to control a feline leukemia virus outbreak in the endangered Iberian lynx

Authors


Correspondence
Guillermo López, Empresa de Gestión Medioambiental de la Junta de Andalucía (EGMASA), Johan Gutenberg, 1. 41002, Seville.
Email: guiloza@gmail.com

Abstract

The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus that affects domestic cats all over the world. Its pathogenic effects generally include anemia, immunosuppression or tumors. Dissemination over populations is linked to cat sociality, because the virus is transmitted by direct contact. Although the domestic cat is its common host, FeLV infection has also been described in some wild felids. In the Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus, some sporadic FeLV infection cases have been reported since 1994, but an outbreak with the involvement of several animals has never been described until now. During spring 2007, an FeLV outbreak hit the Doñana (SW Spain) population. The infection rapidly spread throughout the densest subpopulation throughout Doñana. Infected animals showed very acute anemic disease, most of them dying in <6 months. To avoid FeLV dissemination, a control program was carried out that included removal of viremic lynxes, vaccination of negative individuals and reduction of the feral cat population. The program was implemented both in Doñana and in Sierra Morena populations. In Doñana, around 80% of the total lynx population and 90% of the outbreak focus subpopulation were evaluated. Seven out of the 12 infected individuals found died and two reverted to latency; the remaining viremic animals have been kept in captivity. The outbreak appears to have been successfully confined to the subpopulation where the virus appeared and no more cases have been found since August 2007. In the larger Sierra Morena population, 8% of the lynx population was surveyed. Thirty-four uninfected Iberian lynxes were vaccinated at least once. The FeLV prevalence was found to be 27% in the Doñana population and 0% in the Sierra Morena population.

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