A new article from the research team has just been published in Aquaculture. It describes the devastating outbreak which occurred in the Hawkesbury River estuary in January-February 2013. It is one of the most intensive investigations of its kind and revealed many new features of the disease including its incubation period, the most important mode of transmission and the steps that were taken to try to reduce the losses.
I Paul-Pont, O Evans, NK Dhand, A Rubio, P Coad and RJ Whittington (2014). Descriptive epidemiology of mass mortality due to Ostreid herpesvirus-1 (OsHV-1) in commercially farmed Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in the Hawkesbury River estuary, Australia. Aquaculture: 422-423: 146-159
Summary: Mortality of farmed triploid Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) associated with Ostreid herpesvirus-1 (OsHV-1) was first recorded in Australia in the Georges River/Botany Bay estuary (New South Wales) in late 2010. Two years later, the first sign of possible inter-estuarine spread was observed when commercial triploid Pacific oysters in the Hawkesbury River estuary, located 50 km north of Botany Bay, were affected by mass mortality. The aim of this study was to describe the epidemiological features of the Hawkesbury outbreak via a formal investigation which was conducted in real time and comprised: an assessment of stock levels, past oyster acquisitions and a trace forward investigation to identify stock at greatest risk due to transfers of oysters; passive surveillance of the spread of mortalities in the estuary; active surveillance using PCR to identify the distribution of OsHV-1 infection on farms in the estuary and mortality estimates to identify age and size classes affected; identification of the time of first infection using data from sentinel oysters; and assessment of environmental risk factors. Mortalities were recorded in all age classes but were greater in spat and juveniles than in adults. The incubation period for mass mortality was < 4 days, however subclinical OsHV-1 infection was detected three months prior to the first signs of mortality in the index case (first location affected), which suggests that low viral loads of OsHV-1 are insufficient to induce the disease. While inefficient oyster-to-oyster transmission occurred at two locations, a synchronous infection arising from a common environmental source was required to explain the mass mortalities at the index case (Mullet Creek). Estuarine hydrodynamics then assisted rapid dispersal of viral particles throughout the estuary. Seawater temperatures were consistently above 24°C during the month preceding mass mortalities with variations (± 3°C) being observed over a few days during this period; however this did not necessarily lead to mortality events when the virus was present. There was no evidence of prior movement of potentially infected oysters or farming equipment into the Hawkesbury River estuary to explain the outbreak.
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