July 26, 2007

Plague Found in El Paso County Prairie Dogs
KKTV 11 News - kktv.com
24 Jul 2007
Area: Colorado USA

The El Paso County Health Department has confirmed several prairie dog sites are infected with plague. The sites are at Schriever Air Force Base and on neighboring property, in eastern El Paso County. Plague is commonly found in the Western U.S. in small ground animals that have been bitten by fleas. Human cases aren't not common, but plague can be transmitted to people from infected animals. Since 1941, there have bee 55 cases statewide of human plague.

Information on Dead Seals in 2007 - Status Report No. 5: Seal Epidemic Spreading into Skagerrak and Baltic
Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, Wilhelmshaven - waddensea-secretariat.org
25 Jul 2007
Area: Sweden

Yesterday, Tero Härkönen of the Swedisch National History Museum has carried out an autopsy on a seal, found at Lysekil in the southern Skagerrak (see map). It appeared that the seal had all the macroscopic symptoms of phocine distemper.

Investigators Take to the Air to Solve Mystery of Major Fish Kills on P.E.I. (PEI-Fish-Kill)
Oilweek Magazine - oilweek.com
25 Jul 2007
Area: Prince Edward Island Canada

Environment officials in Prince Edward Island took to the air Wednesday hoping that an aerial view would provide some clues to the cause of a pair of major fish kills. Investigators have suggested that pesticides seeping from farmers‘ fields could have killed thousands of fish that were found floating in the Dunk and Tryon rivers in western P.E.I., on the weekend. One theory is that unusually heavy rain on Friday and Saturday washed the industrial chemicals into the rivers. The province has legislation to protect rivers from such toxic runoff. For example, farmers are restricted from planting or spraying anything within 10 metres of riverbanks.

But the province‘s environment minister, George Webster, has said the buffers may not have been large enough to deal with last week‘s heavy downpour. Investigators have been collecting dead fish and wading through the rivers since Sunday. George MacDougall, a fish and wildlife manager with the Environment Department, said he hoped aircraft surveillance would provide information that has eluded investigators on the ground. “It‘s pretty rough when you‘re walking those streams, especially on these hot days in chest waders, and there‘s debris, so it‘s been tough for the crews out on the streams. The aerial survey will certainly close a lot of those gaps.‘‘

Rise in Cases of West Nile May Portend an Epidemic
The New York Times - nytimes.com
26 Jul 2007
D Grady
Area: United States

The number of West Nile virus cases in the United States is nearly four times what it was a year ago, meaning that a large epidemic may be in store, government researchers are reporting. “It’s certainly a warning sign that we need to be extremely vigilant,” Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of the division of vector-borne infections at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said yesterday. “The worst is yet to come.” The virus, carried by mosquitoes, causes a mild, flu-like illness in 20 percent of those infected, and no symptoms in about 80 percent.

In about 1 percent of cases, the illness progresses to a brain infection that can be fatal. Last year, 4,269 cases were reported in the United States, including 1,495 brain infections, and 177 people died. The risk of severe illnesses increases with age. So far this year, 122 cases have been reported, with the most in California and the Dakotas. At this time last year, there had been only 33. The reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg, researchers say. Many infections are never diagnosed because they were mild and the patient did not see a doctor, or was not tested for the virus.

Deer Disease Could Be Linked to Dirt
Portage Daily Register - wiscnews.com
26 Jul 2007
R Seely
Area: Wisconsin USA

By binding to a common soil mineral, the misshapen proteins that cause chronic wasting disease in deer can be as much as 700 times more infectious than exposure to the proteins alone, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The finding, by UW-Madison animal health and biomedical science professor Judd Aiken, may help explain why CWD spreads orally among Wisconsin deer even though animals in the wild are exposed to relatively low levels of the infectious proteins, called prions. Herbivores, including deer and sheep, consume a fair amount of dirt each day as they graze. They are also known to consume soil as a source of minerals. The study would appear to support efforts by the state Department of Natural Resources to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease by thinning the size of the herd and thus reducing the number of infected animals releasing prions into the landscape.

Previous studies have shown the infectious prions are present in saliva and other body fluids in sick deer. "Reducing the number of animals that are releasing the infectivity is a clear and logical response,'' Aiken said. The research was published today in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens. Prions are abnormal proteins that cause CWD by prompting healthy proteins to morph into the more deadly variety. Animals die when the prions build up in the brain and cause massive lesions.

Journal Article(s) of Interest

Molecular Changes in the Polymerase Genes (PA and PB1) Associated with High Pathogenicity of H5N1 Influenza Virus in Mallard Ducks [online abstract only]
J. Virol. 2007 Aug; 81(16): 8515-8524
DJ Hulse-Post et al.

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