Epidemiological Assessment of Risk Factors Associated with Bovine Ephemeral Fever Virus Exposure among Sheep and Goats in South Korea

Jeong-Min Hwang, Yun Ji Ga, Jung-Yong Yeh


Background: Bovine ephemeral fever virus (BEFV) is an arthropod-borne virus classified as a type species of the genus Ephemerovirus, family Rhabdoviridae. BEFV is the causative agent of bovine ephemeral fever (BEF), a non-contagious disease of acute febrile clinical signs in cattle and water buffalo. Some species might act as reservoir hosts, and antibodies to BEFV have also been found in asymptomatic sheep, goats, pigs, and many wild animals. This study aimed to conduct a retrospective cross-sectional serological screening in South Korea to address BEFV seroprevalence and identify risk factors for becoming seropositive for the virus in sheep and goats. 

Materials, Methods & Results: The apparent prevalence rates were considered to be the animal-level prevalence, defined as the proportion of serum neutralization test (SNT)-positive animals out of the total number of animals tested in the study area, and flock prevalence was defined as the proportion of SNT-positive flocks out of the total number of tested flocks in the area. A flock was classified as positive if at least one animal was SNT-positive. At the national level in 2011, 28 of 177 flocks (15.8%; 95% CI, 11.2−21.9%) and 71 of 498 heads (14.3%, 95% CI: 11.5-17.6%) that were analyzed showed serum neutralizing antibodies against BEFV. Our results revealed that age class, vector control, and geographic location affected seroprevalence to differing extents. In the univariate analysis, older age was a significant risk factor (OR, 2.327; 95% CI, 1.147-4.721; P = 0.017 in adults). The management risk factor attributes showed that preventive measures, such as routine application of insecticides in farms, decreased the odds of seropositivity for BEFV (OR, 0.514; 95% CI, 0.267-0.991; P = 0.044). Vector control was a significant protective factor, while animal species, flock size, and flock structure were not significantly associated. Differences in seroprevalence between variations in the presence of ruminant farms, lakes, or rice paddies within a 1-km radius or type of land use were not statistically significant (P > 0.05). We observed a significant difference in the individual likelihood of being positive in the southern provinces with respect to that in the northern provinces (OR, 2.166; 95% CI, 1.228-3.824; P = 0.007). Differences in seroprevalence between variations in the eastern and western regions were not statistically significant (P > 0.05). The retrospective study results showed that the virus was widely distributed in sheep and goats in South Korea, with seropositive rates ranging from 7.8% to 19.7% between 2003 and 2008.

Discussion: This is the first report of circulating antibodies against BEFV in sheep and goats in South Korea. The serological prevalence of BEFV infection in sheep and goats was significantly different between different age cohorts, vector control, and geographical locations: it was higher in the older group and the southern and western regions of South Korea. Determination of seropositivity rates often leads to an understanding of virus circulation dynamics and is useful in the formulation of disease control measures. Our results demonstrated that vector control was a significant protective factor; therefore, the summer control of vectors could be better implemented in provinces with elevated seropositivity rates. The results of this seroprevalence study may serve as a basis for future epidemiological studies on BEFV infection in South Korea.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22456/1679-9216.111679

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