Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF) is a fatal systemic disease of cattle, deer, bison and other hoofed animals. It is caused by members of a group of herpesviruses and is almost always fatal. There is no licensed treatment or a commercial vaccine currently available.
MCF causes problems for UK cattle producers but is a more serious issue for the deer and bison industry worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, wildebeest carry a similar virus which causes MCF throughout the wildebeest range. MCF is therefore be serious problem for pastoralist herdsmen and their cattle during wildebeest migration and is a particular issue in South Africa where it is a source of conflict between wildlife and cattle ranchers.
In the UK, MCF is mostly caused by Ovine Herpesvirus-2 (OvHV-2). This virus naturally infects most sheep without causing clinical disease and persists for the lifetime of the animal. Sheep are therefore considered to be the reservoir species for this virus in the UK.
MCF is a sporadic disease, usually affecting small numbers of animals but occasional outbreaks can affect up to 50% of a herd. The reasons for this are not clear.
The clinical signs of MCF include high fever, enlarged lymph nodes, discharge from eyes & nose, lesions in the mouth and muzzle, inflammation and cloudiness of the eyes and sometimes diarrhoea. Cattle may survive two weeks after onset of signs while bison and deer die within a few days.
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