Thorough epidemiologic investigations of wildlife mortality events are often challenging, in part because of the dynamic variables involved. In May 2011, six fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) in Clinton State Park, Kansas, US were euthanized after exhibiting clinical signs of neurologic disease. Postmortem examination of two squirrels revealed that these individuals died of Baylisascaris larva migrans, which resulted in meningoencephalitis and variable pneumonia and myocarditis. Fecal flotation of raccoon (Procyon lotor) feces collected in the area revealed Baylisascaris sp. ova, presumably Baylisascaris procyonis, in one of nine samples. Additional fox squirrel carcasses were submitted for diagnostic evaluation from eastern Kansas for 1 yr following the Baylisascaris sp. outbreak. This monitoring unexpectedly resulted in the detection of Franci-sella tularensis, the zoonotic pathogen that causes tularemia, in two fox squirrels. The increased attention to fox squirrel mortalities prompted by the outbreak of Baylisascaris sp. larva migrans revealed cases of tularemia that may not have been otherwise detected. Although F. tularensis is endemic in Kansas, the current distribution and prevalence of B. procyonis in raccoons and other hosts in Kansas are poorly understood. This year-long mortality investigation illustrated the importance of wildlife health monitoring as a means of assessing public health risks, especially during unusual wildlife mortality events.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics