The principal mode of transmission is by biting arthropod vectors, and the major inoculation route is dermal. Since these viruses do not replicate in the vector, the transmission is purely mechanical and hence virus spread can be readily accomplished by alternative routes as well. Thus, mosquitoes, fleas, blackflies, ticks, lice, mites, and even thistles and the claws of predatory birds, have all been implicated in leporipoxvirus transmission. The efficiency of transmission by arthropods is quite variable, and is related to viral titers in skin lesions as well as the size of the vector populations. There are no known respiratory or oral routes of infection with members of either genus, but in some infections, such as MYX in domestic rabbits, the disease can be transmitted by direct contact with ocular discharges or open cutaneous lesions.
The sui- and leporipoxviruses in their native hosts are specific for the epidermis or subdermis and usually do not progress to secondary sites, although draining lymph nodes can be affected. However, in the case of MYX infection of the domestic rabbit the virus can propagate efficiently in lymphocytes and migrates via infected leukocytes through lymphatic channels to establish secondary sites of infection.
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