The 1996 outbreak of African horse sickness in South Africa — the entomological perspective

  • R. Meiswinkel
Conference paper


During the 1996 summer season (January-April) in South Africa an estimated 500 horses died of African horse sickness (AHS); 80% of deaths were due to AHS virus serotypes 2 and 4. Nearly all cases occurred in the northern, north-eastern and central parts of South Africa. This study reports the first attempt to verify the involvement of the biting midge Culicoides imicola in a field outbreak of AHS in southern Africa. In light-trap collections made at 47 sites over 12 weeks, C. imicola comprised 94.2% of 4.78 million Culicoides. Culicoides imicola was the most prevalent of 34 species captured and was the only species whose distribution matched that of the disease. Record catches of C. imicola were made, and reveal that in years of above average rainfall its numbers can show a 200-fold increase over those in dry years. Soil type appeared to determine strongly the distribution of C. imicola. The largest populations of C. imicola were found in areas with clayey, moisture-retentive soils whereas the lowest numbers, or none, occurred in areas where the soils were sandy and quick-draining. The deaths of two horses (confirmed AHS) in a sandy area were perplexing as they occurred in a region known to be free of C. imicola. The probable origin of these infections was established.


Clayey Soil Rift Valley Fever Race Horse Trop Anim Health Prod Culicoides Species 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Meiswinkel
    • 1
  1. 1.Onderstepoort Veterinary InstituteOnderstepoortSouth Africa

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