Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


bovine herpesvirus 2 infection



bovine herpesvirus 2 infection


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • bovine herpesvirus 2 infection
  • Pathogens
  • bovine herpesvirus 2
  • Overview
  • Bovine herpesvirus 2 (BHV-2) is the causative agent of two diseases. The first is localized in the udder and called bovine herpes mammillitis. The second is a generalized cutaneous form named Allerton disease or pseudo-...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • bovine herpesvirus 2 infection

International Common Names

  • English: Allerton disease; bovine herpes mammillitis; bovine herpes mammillitis, pseudo-lumpy skin disease, herpesvirus-2; bovine ulcerative mammillitis; pseudo-lumpy skin disease


Top of page bovine herpesvirus 2


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Bovine herpesvirus 2 (BHV-2) is the causative agent of two diseases. The first is localized in the udder and called bovine herpes mammillitis. The second is a generalized cutaneous form named Allerton disease or pseudo-lumpy skin disease, due to it’s similarity with the capripoxvirus infection causing lumpy skin disease. The localized form is mainly observed in Europe and America whereas the generalized form is common in Africa.

Host Animals

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Animal nameContextLife stageSystem
Aepyceros melampusWild host
Alcelaphus buselaphusWild host
Antidorcas marsupialisWild host
Bos indicus (zebu)
Bos taurus (cattle)Domesticated host, Wild hostCattle & Buffaloes: All Stages
Capra hircus (goats)Domesticated host, Wild hostSheep & Goats: All Stages
Capreolus capreolusWild host
Connochaetes taurinusWild host
Giraffa camelopardalisWild host
Hippotragus equinusWild host
Hippotragus nigerWild host
Kobus ellipsiprymnusWild host
Oryx gazellaWild host
Ovis aries (sheep)Domesticated host, Wild hostSheep & Goats: All Stages
Redunca arundinumWild host
Rupicapra rupicapraDomesticated host, Wild host
Syncerus cafferDomesticated host, Wild hostCattle & Buffaloes: All Stages
Tragelaphus oryxWild host
Tragelaphus scriptusWild host
Tragelaphus strepsicerosWild host

Hosts/Species Affected

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Cattle and buffalo (Syncerus caffer) are natural hosts of BHV-2. Sheep and goats can be experimentally infected and develop local lesions. BHV-2 neutralizing antibodies have been demonstrated in a wide range of ruminant species, especially in African wildlife (see hosts table). A very low prevalence of seropositive roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) has been observed (Thiry et al., 1988). Even Asian elephants have serological evidence of BHV-2 infection (Metzler et al., 1990). These serological results raise the point of the existence of herpesviruses related to BHV-2 infecting those species.

Systems Affected

Top of page skin and ocular diseases of large ruminants
skin and ocular diseases of small ruminants


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BHV-2 infection is distributed worldwide. Pseudo-lumpy skin disease was first diagnosed in South Africa, then in Kenya, the USA and Australia. Bovine herpes mammillitis was observed in Great Britain, Ireland (O’Connor et al., 1994), Bulgaria, Italy, France, Australia, the USA, Canada (Martin et al., 1987), Rwanda and Burundi, Zambia and Brazil (Scott, 1989). Serological evidence of BHV-2 infection was obtained in Belgium (Pastoret et al., 1983), the Netherlands, New Zealand (Horner and Raynel, 1988), South Africa (Barnard, 1997) and Namibia (Scott, 1989; Geiger et al., 1990). Although pseudo-lumpy skin disease is mainly diagnosed in Africa, cases of generalized disease have been reported in Europe (Woods et al., 1996).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


BurundiPresentScott (1989)
KenyaPresentO'Connor et al. (1994)
NamibiaPresentGeiger et al. (1990)
RwandaPresentScott (1989)
South AfricaPresentBarnard (1997)
ZambiaPresentScott (1989)


BelgiumPresentCABI (Undated)Original citation: Pastoret et al. (1983)
BulgariaPresentMartin et al. (1987)
FrancePresentMartin et al. (1987)
ItalyPresentMartin et al. (1987)
NetherlandsPresentHorner and Raynel (1988)
United KingdomPresentO'Connor et al. (1994)

North America

CanadaPresentMartin et al. (1987)
United StatesPresentMartin et al. (1987)


AustraliaPresentMartin et al. (1987)

South America

BrazilPresentScott (1989)


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Bovine herpes mammillitis

This disease is usually observed in dairy cows during the second part of the year and usually heifers in 2 to 10 days after calving. It can also be observed in bulls (Letchworth et al., 1982). The infection spreads within three weeks among the herd. The virus is transmitted directly from animal to animal and indirectly by contaminated material. Biting flies could also play a role in virus transmission. The incubation period is 4 to 10 days. The lesions are localized on the teats, and rarely on the udder and perinea. The skin is swollen and translucent and some vesicles may be visible. The lesions appear blue or purple. They evolve as ulcers and resolve without complications within 4 weeks. Suckling calves may become affected, showing the same lesions on the lips, the nose and in the mouth (Gourreau and Pauluzzi, 1988; Gourreau et al., 1989; Scott, 1989).

Pseudo-lumpy skin disease

Pseudo-lumpy skin disease is a generalized and febrile disease. Circumscribed nodules suddenly appear on the skin of the whole body. These nodules are hard, palpable and circular. A slight depression is visible in their centre. After a few days, necrosis follows, the nodules evolve as ulcers and are covered by scabs. After 2 weeks, the lesions are resolved but leave areas provisionally devoid of hair (Gourreau and Pauluzzi, 1988; Scott, 1989).


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Clinical diagnosis

Bovine herpes mammillitis is suspected when the characteristic lesions appear on the teats, especially in late summer and early winter. The disease must be differentiated from pseudo-cowpox. Pseudo-lumpy skin disease produces lesions very close to these induced by lumpy skin disease. However, the slight depression observed in the centre of the nodules is characteristic of pseudo-lumpy skin disease (Scott, 1989).


The virus can be isolated from the lesions, especially from vesicles when they are present. The virus grows in most bovine cell lines, such as bovine embryonic kidney or testicle cells (Scott, 1989). Serological diagnosis is achieved by seroneutralization. Alternatively an ELISA can be performed for the detection of specific BHV-2 antibodies (Bushnell and Edwards, 1988).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Digestive Signs / Oral mucosal ulcers, vesicles, plaques, pustules, erosions, tears Sign
General Signs / Cyanosis, blue skin or membranes Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia Sign
General Signs / Mammary gland swelling, mass, hypertrophy udder, gynecomastia Sign
General Signs / Swelling skin or subcutaneous, mass, lump, nodule Sign
Pain / Discomfort Signs / Pain mammary gland, udder Sign
Pain / Discomfort Signs / Skin pain Sign
Reproductive Signs / Agalactia, decreased, absent milk production Sign
Reproductive Signs / Edema of mammary gland, udder Sign
Reproductive Signs / Slough of mammary gland, udder Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin crusts, scabs Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin edema Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin erythema, inflammation, redness Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin necrosis, sloughing, gangrene Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin papules Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin plaque Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin pustules Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin scales, flakes, peeling Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin ulcer, erosion, excoriation Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin vesicles, bullae, blisters Sign

Disease Course

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BHV-2 primary infection is silent and enters through a skin lesion to reach the dermis. A short viraemia may occur. The virus establishes a latent infection in neurones and probably the skin (Martin and Scott, 1979). Dexamethasone treatment experimentally re-activates latent BHV-2. The virus is thermosensitive and replicates at a temperature lower than body temperature. This feature could provide an explanation for teat lesions during the cold season.

Impact: Economic

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Although BHV-2 infection can reduce milk production in dairy herds, and pseudo-lumpy skin disease-affected skin has no commercial value (Scott, 1989), the infection does not have significant regional or national impact.

Prevention and Control

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No commercial vaccine against BHV-2 is available. Live-attenuated vaccines have been experimentally developed from thymidine kinase deficient strains (Smee and Leonhardt, 1994; Gaut and May, 1997).

Control is only performed during BHV-2 outbreaks, no preventative controls are used. Affected cows should be isolated from the herd and milked separately. The milking machine should be disinfected with iodophores, and insecticides should be used to eliminate biting flies (Scott, 1989).


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Barnard BJH, 1997. Antibodies against some viruses of domestic animals in southern African wild animals. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 64(2):95-110; 70 ref.

Borchers K et al., 1990. Conserved epitopes of simian herpesvirus SA8 and bovine herpesvirus type 2. Archives of Virology, 111(1-2):1-14.

Bushnell SE; Edwards S, 1988. The development and standardization of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for the detection of antibodies to bovine herpesvirus 2. Journal of Biological Standardization, 16(1):45-53.

Castrucci G et al., 1981. A study in calves of an immunologic relationship between Herpes simplex virus and Bovid herpesvirus 2. Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 4(1):1-7.

Castrucci G; Ferrari M; Frigeri F; Aldrovandi V, 1990. A further study on relationships between herpes simplex virus and bovid herpesvirus-2. Microbiologica, 13(2):101-107; 8 ref.

Conraths F et al., 1987. Conserved antigenic and functional domains on glycoprotein B of herpes simplex virus 1 and bovine herpesvirus 2. Archives of Virology, 96(3-4):309-318.

Conraths FJ; Pauli G; Ludwig H, 1988. Monoclonal antibodies directed against a 130K glycoprotein of bovine herpesvirus 2 cross-react with glycoprotein B of herpes simplex virus. Virus Research, 10(1):53-64.

Ehlers B et al., 1999. Bovine herpesvirus type 2 is closely related to the Primate alphaherpesviruses. Virus Genes, 19(3):197-203.

Gaut R; May JT, 1997. Loss of thymidine kinase activity due to a base deletion in a candidate vaccine strain of bovine herpesvirus 2. Acta Virologica, 41(2):93-95; 12 ref.

Geiger R; Munz E; Hübschle OJB; Reimann M, 1990. Seroepizootiological studies on the distribution of bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV1) and bovine herpesvirus 2 (BHV2) in Namibia. Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Series B, 37(3):197-202; 12 ref.

Gourreau JM; Moussa A; Dubois A; Hermitte P; Delmache P; Fedida M; Guerrin R, 1989. Epidemic of ulcerative thelitis due to mammillitis herpesvirus in Haute-Marne. Point Vétérinaire, 21(123):633-635.

Gourreau JM; Pauluzzi L, 1988. Bovine ulcerative mammillitis. Point Vétérinaire, 20(114):507-520; 143 ref.

Hammerschmidt W et al., 1988. Conservation of a gene cluster including glycoprotein B in bovine herpesvirus type 2 (BHV-2) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Virology, 165(2):388-405.

Hammerschmidt W, 1988. Common epitopes of glycoprotein B map within the major DNA-binding proteins of bovine herpesvirus type 2 (BHV-2) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Virology, 165(2):406-418.

Horner GW; Raynel PD, 1988. Serological evidence of bovine herpesvirus 2 in northern New Zealand. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 36(1):44-45; 6 ref.

Letchworth GJ; Carmichael LE, 1982. Bovid herpesvirus 2 latency: failure to recover virus from central sensory nerve ganglia. Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine, 46(1):76-79.

Letchworth GJ; Carmichael LE; Lein DH, 1982. Bovid herpesvirus 2: natural spread among breeding bulls. Cornell Veterinarian, 72(2):200-210.

Martin JR; Harvey D; Montpetit C, 1987. Bovine herpes mammillitis in Quebec. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 28(8):532; 18 ref.

Martin WB; Scott FMM, 1979. Archives of Virology 60:51-58.

Metzler AE; Ossent P; Guscetti F; Rubel A; Lang EM, 1990. Serological evidence of herpesvirus infection in captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 26(1):41-49.

O'Connor M; Tully C; Power EP, 1994. Serological investigation of nineteen outbreaks of bovine herpes mammillitis. Irish Veterinary Journal, 47(4):168-170; 13 ref.

Pastoret PP et al., 1983. Serological survey of bovine mammillitis herpesvirus (bovine herpesvirus 2, BHV 2) infection in Belgium. Annales de Médecine Vétérinaire, 127: 4, 267-270.

Scott FMM, 1989. Bovine herpesvirus 2 infections. In: Wittmann G, ed. Herpesvirus Diseases of Cattle, Horse and Pigs. Massachusetts, USA:Kluwer Academic Publishers, 73-95.

Smee DF; Leonhardt JA, 1994. Vaccination against bovine herpes mammillitis virus infections in guinea pigs. Intervirology, 37(1):20-24; 13 ref.

Thiry E et al., 1988. Serological survey of herpesvirus infections in wild ruminants of France and Belgium. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 24(2):268-273.

Woods JA; Herring JA; Nettleton PF; Kreuger N; Scott FMM; Reid HW, 1996. Isolation of bovine herpesvirus-2 (BHV-2) from a case of pseudo-lumpy skin disease in the United Kingdom. Veterinary Record, 138(5):113-114; 12 ref.

Distribution Maps

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