A total of 51 sera from a migratory population of Burchell's zebras (Equus burchelli) were collected in the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) between 1999 and 2001 to assess levels of exposure to equine herpesvirus types 1, 2, 4, 9 (EHV-1, −2, −4, −9), EHV-1 zebra isolate T965, and equine arteritis virus (EAV). Using virus-specific neutralizing antibody tests, seroprevalence was high for EHV-9 (60% of 45), moderate for EAV (24% of 51), and lower for the EHV-1-related zebra isolate (17% of 41), EHV-1 (14% of 49), and EHV-4 (2% of 50). No evidence for exposure to EHV-2 was found (0% of 51). The high level of exposure to EHV-9 is interesting because evidence of infection with this virus has not been previously described in any wild equine population. Although the epidemiology of EHV-9 in Burchell's zebras is presently unknown, our results suggest that in East Africa, this species may be a natural host of EHV-9, a neuropathogenic virus that was only recently isolated from captive Thomson's gazelles (Gazella thomsoni) in Japan. There is currently no evidence that EHV-9 induced mortality in Burchell's zebras in the Serengeti, but because of the reported virulence of this virus for more susceptible species such as Thomson's gazelles, viral transmission from infected zebras to ungulates may result in mortality.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1