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K-State Today

September 14, 2018

K-State and USDA-ARS scientists find white-tailed deer highly susceptible to Rift Valley fever virus

Submitted by Sarah Hancock

Scientists from Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service collaborated to conduct the first study of Rift Valley fever virus infection in white-tailed deer. Their findings ran counter to the conventional wisdom that Rift Valley fever, a disease that causes significant economic losses from death and abortion among livestock and also affects humans, wouldn't spread in the U.S. because of a lack of susceptible wildlife.

William Wilson, research microbiologist with the USDA ARS Arthropod-borne Disease Research Unit in Manhattan, and Juergen Richt, Regents distinguished professor and director of the K-State Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases, led the team of researchers.

In the past 15 years alone, Rift Valley fever virus has caused tens of thousands of human cases, including hundreds of deaths, and more than 100,000 domestic animal deaths in affected countries.

"We were excited to have this collaborative research at the Biosecurity Research Institute. It was the first study in wildlife here, and indeed the first-ever study in the U.S. to determine if Rift Valley fever virus could infect North American wildlife. The results show that if ever the virus were to be introduced into the U.S., then it could possibly establish a zoonotic transmission cycle," said Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute.

Find out more in a news release from USDA-ARS or read the published study. The work was conducted at the Biosecurity Research Institute and was funded by the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, the Kansas National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Transition Fund, the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.

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