A Qualitative Risk Assessment for Bluetongue Disease and African Horse Sickness: The Risk of Entry and Exposure at a UK Zoo

Bluetongue virus (BTV) and African horse sickness virus (AHSV) cause economically important diseases that are currently exotic to the United Kingdom (UK), but have significant potential for introduction and onward transmission. Given the susceptibility of animals kept in zoo collections to vector-borne diseases, a qualitative risk assessment for the introduction of BTV and AHSV to ZSL London Zoo was performed. Risk pathways for each virus were identified and assessed using published literature, animal import data and outputs from epidemiological models. Direct imports of infected animals, as well as wind-borne infected Culicoides, were considered as routes of incursion. The proximity of ongoing disease events in mainland Europe and proven capability of transmission to the UK places ZSL London Zoo at higher risk of BTV release and exposure (estimated as low to medium) than AHSV (estimated as very low to low). The recent long-range expansion of AHSV into Thailand from southern Africa highlights the need for vector competence studies of Palearctic Culicoides for AHSV to assess the risk of transmission in this region.

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