Skunk adenovirus-1 in P.E.I.
Striped skunks all over the world have acquired a notorious reputation for spraying foul-smelling material from their hind ends at potential predators. On Prince Edward Island, striped skunks are a common sight and even a quick glimpse of a skunk’s characteristic black and white coat causes many people to maintain a considerable distance from these curious animals. In the last few years, a new virus called skunk adenovirus-1 has been detected in PEI striped skunks, causing disease and death in affected individuals. Skunk adenovirus-1 was first diagnosed in an Ontario striped skunk in 2015 and has subsequently been diagnosed in striped skunks, grey foxes, eastern porcupines, African pygmy hedgehogs, raccoons, and pygmy marmosets. Infected animals typically show signs of nasal discharge, acute pneumonia, and lethargy. The most commonly reported lesions include severe bronchopneumonia and also hepatitis. Since it was first diagnosed in 2015, the behavior, transmission and prevalence of skunk adenovirus-1 in free-ranging wildlife has remained a mystery to researchers. Other adenoviruses tend to be host-specific (infecting and causing disease in a single host species) and are often associated with other factors causing immunosuppression. However, skunk adenovirus-1 can cause disease in multiple host species and in animals with no evidence of underlying immunosuppression. There are several cases of porcupines that are known to have recovered from Skunk adenovirus-1 infection with subsequent release back into the wild, however the majority of sick individuals die from disease. The prevalence of skunk adenovirus-1 in the Prince Edward Island skunk population is currently unknown, as are the potential impacts it may be having on regional populations. Using funding provided by the Prince Edward Island Wildlife Conservation Fund, the CWHC Atlantic node is working to develop a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to answer some of these questions.
We would like to thank the Prince Edward Island Wildlife Conservation Fund for providing the funding for this project, and the PEI Department of Communities, Land and Environment for their assistance in submitting specimens to us.
Submitted by: Amanda Clark