September 11, 2007

PCBs May Threaten Killer Whale Populations for 30-60 Years
American Chemical Society (Posted by
10 Sep 2007
Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Orcas or killer whales may continue to suffer the effects of contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for the next 30 -- 60 years, despite 1970s-era regulations that have reduced overall PCB concentrations in the environment, researchers in Canada report. The study calls for better standards to protect these rare marine mammals. In the study, Brendan Hickie and Peter S. Ross and colleagues point out that orcas face a daunting array of threats to survival, including ship traffic, reduced abundance of prey and environmental contamination. Orcas, which reach a length exceeding 25 feet and weights of 4-5 tons, already are the most PCB-contaminated creatures on Earth.

Scientists are trying to determine how current declines in PCBs in the environment may affect orcas throughout an exceptionally long life expectancy, which ranges up to 90 years for females and 50 years for males. The new study used mathematical models and measurements of PCBs in salmon (orcas' favorite food) and ocean floor cores to recreate a PCB exposure history to estimate PCB concentrations in killer whales over time. It concluded that the "threatened" northern population of 230 animals will likely face health risks until at least 2030, while the endangered southern population of 85 orcas may face such risks until at least 2063.

Deaths in Deer Population Investigated
The Review -
11 Sep 2007
MD McElwain
Area: West Virginia USA

State and local officials are investigating reports of dead deer in the northern end of Hancock County. “We took some sample specimens last week and are waiting for the final test results,” Steve Rauch said. An assistant district wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Rauch is responsible for helping to monitor district one – some 12 counties in West Virginia including Hancock County. “While the test results have yet to come in, what we suspect is that it is a case of EHD,” Rauch said.

EHD, or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, is a viral infectious disease of, most commonly, white-tailed deer, and while outbreaks occur almost every year in the Southeast, Rauch said cases do appear in West Virginia. “We have outbreaks of it periodically,” Rauch said. While the Hancock County test results have not yet been reported, Rauch said one county in West Virginia has reported positive cases of EHD infestation along with two counties in Pennsylvania. Along with Hancock County, Rauch is awaiting test results from two other counties in the state.

Tularemia - Russia (Khanti-Mansiysky) - Archive Number 20070910.2988
ProMED-mail -
10 Sep 2007
Area: Russia

In Berezov district (Khanti-Mansiysky autonomous region), the number of patients with tularemia has increased to 23 persons. It is reported that, all infected persons, among them 3 children, have been hospitalized. It is thought that rodents are the source of infection. Rodents' burrows were flooded because of high level of water, therefore the animals had to search for new habitation close to [human] settlements. Insects may have played a significant role in transmission of infection.

Agencies Testing State’s Birds for Signs of Avian Flu
The Lawrence Journal-World -
10 Sep 2007
M Belt
Area: Kansas USA

Kansas and federal wildlife agencies are gearing up for a nationwide surveillance program this fall designed for early detection of avian flu. This is the second year for the program, and there has been no evidence of the dangerous strain of the bird flu in the United States. But that strain, known in scientific terms as highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1, has struck bird flocks in other countries and has even been contracted by a few people. “The odds are pretty slim that this particular strain that causes concern will show up here, but it’s possible,” said Bob Mathews, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “We’re ready to deal with it if it does.”

State and federal authorities hope to test at least 1,000 game birds and poultry in Kansas, and they will need cooperation from hunters and poultry raisers. Wildlife and Parks officers will watch for hunters who have bagged waterfowl and ask to test the birds. The hunters’ cooperation is strictly voluntary. The testing process includes taking quick swabs of the mouth and intestinal tract. Hunters were cooperative last year, Mathews said.

Keep West Nile Virus at Bay
Muskogee Phoenix -
10 Sep 2007
K Purtell
Area: Oklahoma USA

One of the first signs of a new disease in the United States was thousands of dead birds. In 1999, health officials warned the public not to handle dead birds. The reason was something called “West Nile virus.” Birds in the family Corvidae, which includes magpies, ravens, crows and jays, have had the highest mortality rate. Domestic chickens, pigeons and the western bluebird are resistant to the disease.

Horses were also dying until a vaccine was developed. But there is no vaccine approved for humans. This year, the mosquito-borne infection has so far taken the lives of four Oklahomans. It turns out that some birds and other flying creatures can help reduce the risk of WNV by feeding on mosquitos. “Most of the birds around here that will eat mosquitos are swallows, martins, swifts, night hawks and the chuck-will’s widow,” said Dr. Stuart Woods, biology professor at Connors State College.


American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Volume 77, Number 3

Aspects of the Biology of the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) in Coastal Eastern Australia [online abstract only]
Wildlife Research. 2007 Sep; 34(5): 398–407
BJ Richardson et al.

Vaccination in Conservation Medicine [PDF]
Rev. Sci. Tech. Off. Int. Epiz. 2007; 26 (1): 229-241
G Plumb et al.

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