Diseases affecting the upper respiratory tract, such as herpesviruses, are well described in captive chelonians worldwide, but their importance in free-ranging populations is less well known. To characterize the disease epidemiology of terrapene herpesvirus 1 (TerHV1), 409 free-ranging eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) in Tennessee and Illinois, US were tested for TerHV1 in 2013 and 2014 using TaqMan quantitative PCR. Whole blood and swabs of the oral mucosa were collected from 365 adults (154 females, 195 males, 16 unknown sex) and 44 juveniles. The prevalence of detection was 31.3% (n=128). Turtles were more likely to be positive for TerHV1 in July (50%; n=67) compared to September (38%; n=44) and May (11%; n=17). Turtles sampled in 2014 had a significantly higher prevalence (50%; n=98) than in 2013 (14%; n=30). In a multivariate model, only season, year, and the interaction between season and year were maintained; turtles were most likely to be positive in July (odds ratio: 30.5) and September (odds ratio: 41.8) 2014 compared to May 2013. The prevalence was not statistically different by state of collection, sex, or age class. Packed cell volume (25.5%) and total solids (4.8 mg/dL) in positive turtles were significantly higher than in negative turtles (23.0%; 4.3 mg/dL). Positive turtles had increased eosinophil concentrations, fewer lymphocytes, and fewer monocytes. No clinical sign was associated with detection of herpesvirus. Widespread DNA evidence of TerHV1 infection was detected in eastern box turtles, and knowledge of the epidemiology of this virus may aid in management of free-ranging and captive individuals.
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Vol. 53 • No. 2