Canine distemper in Nepal's Annapurna Conservation Area – Implications of dog husbandry and human behaviour for wildlife disease
Dogs are often commensal with human settlements. In areas where settlements are adjacent to wildlife habitat, the management of dogs can affect risk of spillover of disease to wildlife. We assess dog husbandry practices, and measure the prevalence of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) in dogs, in 10 villages in Nepal’s Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), an important region for Himalayan wildlife. A high proportion (58%) of owned dogs were allowed by their owners to roam freely, and many village dogs originated from urban areas outside the region. CDV antibodies, indicating past exposure, were detected in 70% of dogs, and 13% were positive for P-gene, suggesting current circulation of CDV. This is the first detection of canine distemper virus in a National Park in Nepal Himalaya. Dogs were generally in good condition, and none exhibited clinical signs of CDV infection, which suggests that infections were asymptomatic. CDV exposure varied with village location and age of dogs, but this variation was minor, consistent with high rates of movement of dogs across the region maintaining high seroprevalence. Residents reported the occurrence of several species of wild carnivores in or close to villages. These results suggest a high potential for transmission of CDV from village dogs to wild carnivores in ACA. We suggest that control of dog immigration, along with vaccination and neutering of dogs could mitigate the risk of CDV spillover into wild carnivore populations.