Scott is right.  This virus appears to be very virulent in this species so the course of disease from onset of clinical signs to death tends to be very short, making it hard to detect even in populations being regularly monitored.  And the mortality rate appears to be quite high.  So even if there were good diagnostic tests to detect previous exposure the prevalence would likely be severely underestimated as the majority of cases won’t survive to develop an immune response.  So it’s really difficult if not impossible to know whether captive animals are more susceptible to the virus than wild turtles.

I’ve attached my JWD paper for those who might not have it which documents several cases in wild and captive turtles.  We also performed a survey a summer or two ago here in Indiana and found about 4 of ~130 wild box turtles to be positive for the virus on PCR.  Three showed signs of disease, 1 was apparently healthy.  2% of amphibians tested at the same time were also positive but we didn’t do any comparison studies of the viruses.

From: Global Ranavirus Consortium [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Scott Farnsworth
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 12:22 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Washington Post Article

April can probably speak to this best as her article in Journal of Wildlife Diseases is a good summary.  I can add that at least 3 locations in Maryland including the site mentioned in the post article have been reported since that time (just for wild turtles).  My feeling is that the only reason these sites are known is because we have a lot of people working with box turtles in this area and it likely goes largely undetected because there is such a narrow time frame in which the sick or dead turtle can be found in a condition that allows for testing coupled with the low detection probability of the animal itself.

Scott Farnsworth

On Feb 15, 2012, at 11:45 AM, Jesse Brunner <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
Thank you, April.

I have been wondering how often ranavirus has been found in wild populations. From what I can tell from the literature, most if not all documented occurrences have been in captivity. But then I hear anecdotal reports of ranavirus in turtles here and there. I remember hearing about ranavirus being found in Blandings turtles in New York State a few years back, but so far as I can tell this has never been published.

So a question for those in the know, How common are ranavirus outbreaks in wild turtles? Is it simply under-reported?



Jesse Brunner
School of Biological Sciences
Washington State University
283 Eastlick Hall / PO Box 644236
Pullman, WA 99164 USA
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

On Feb 15, 2012, at 8:00 AM, Johnson, April J wrote:

We found Iridovirus-like particles on EM from tissues in a box turtle die off involving 30 turtles dating back to 1991 in Georgia.  It is likely not a new problem, although it is possible it is increasing in frequency or at least in detection.  In 2003, there was a die-off in a repatriated box turtle population in Pennsylvania that was being closely tracked by Bill Belzer.  He wrote up a paper for the Jan 2011 issue of the Turtle and Tortoise newsletter on his own personal observations and speculations that may not be easily accessible (not peer-reviewed).  I’ve attached it in case it may be of interest to anyone.


April Johnson, DVM, MPH, PhD
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health
Purdue University, College of Veterinary Medicine
Phone: (765) 494-0562

<belzer  Seibert 2011 ranavirus pdf (2).pdf>