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Ecohealth. 2008 Jun;5(2):213-23. doi: 10.1007/s10393-008-0166-0. Epub 2008 Mar 25.

Fatal pneumonia epizootic in musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) in a period of extraordinary weather conditions.

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Section for Wildlife Diseases, National Veterinary Institute, Oslo, Norway.


The musk ox is adapted to extreme cold and regarded as vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Population decline is proposed to occur due to changes in forage availability, insect harassment, parasite load, and habitat availability, while the possible role of infectious diseases has not been emphasized. The goal of the present article is to describe an outbreak of fatal pasteurellosis that occurred in the introduced musk ox population of Dovrefjell, Norway in 2006, causing the death of a large proportion of the animals. The epizootic coincided with extraordinary warm and humid weather, conditions that often are associated with outbreaks of pasteurellosis. The description is based on long series of data from the surveillance of the musk ox population, weather data from a closely located meteorological station, and pathoanatomical investigation of the diseased animals. It is concluded that the weather conditions likely were the decisive factors for the outbreak. It is suggested that such epizootics may occur increasingly among cold-adapted animals if global warming results in increased occurrence of heat waves and associated extreme weather events, thereby causing population declines and possibly extinctions.

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