December 1, 2011

Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories


Questions—and cases—mount in seal disease outbreak

A mysterious disease that's killed scores of ringed seals off the Alaskan coast since the summer may also be infecting other species of Arctic marine wildlife.

The outbreak was first reported this July along the North Slope of Alaska. Severely ill and dead ringed seals were found with excessive hair loss and lesions on their faces and flippers. Other signs associated with the disease are delayed molt, lethargy, unusual behavior, and labored breathing. By late October, government officials had received some 200 reports of sick or dead seals, mostly along the more than 200-mile expanse between the Alaskan cities of Point Lay to the south and Barrow to the north. Approximately 50 animals were dead or died a short time after being found.

… "Laboratory findings have been inconclusive to date, and scientists have not yet pinpointed a single cause of this disease," NOAA explained. "A group of international wildlife researchers continue to test for a wide range of possible factors, including bacterial, viral, fungal, or toxic agents that may be responsible for the animals' condition." Samples have so far tested negative for poxvirus, parapoxvirus, herpesvirus, papillomavirus, morbillivirus, and calicivirus and are currently being tested for influenza virus.

… Some features of the histopathologic and epidemiologic findings, such as unusual vacuolar changes, possible inclusions in the skin lesions, and a lymphoplasmacytic necrotizing hepatitis, could indicate a virus is behind the outbreak, Dr. Burek explained, hence the intense search for a primary viral etiology.

American Veterinary Medical Association -
30 Nov 2011


Climate change may boost a lethal disease

For 17 years, Hendra virus smoldered in its host population of fruit bats killing nearly 50 horses and claiming three more human lives. Then in May, something happened.

It was as if Hendra virus awoke from a slumber and roared fully into life. There have been more outbreaks of Hendra in 2011 – 18 at last count – than in the 16 previous years.

Veterinary epidemiologists hunting the virus now know definitively that Australia's fruit bats (Pteropus sp.), also called flying foxes, spread the disease to horses, which then can infect humans. And while they don't know the exact cause of the huge escalation in outbreaks, they strongly suspect it has something to do with the heavy rainfall and big floods that drowned northeastern Australia from November 2010 to February 2011.

And that has them looking nervously at climate change.

"The interesting change was the big floods in January," said Raina Plowright, a disease ecologist at the Pennsylvania State University's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. "Floods are expected more frequently with climate change – so, if they are linked, climate change may increase disease."

Daily Climate -
29 Nov 2011


[Dozens of crows falling dead from the trees]

[Rev. Mary Beyer and Reinhard Kunert, Member of the District Conservation Council, it still can not put into words: Dozens of dead birds were found in recent weeks in Hoym give an enigma. Thus only a few days ago had a Hoyme, who was walking his dog discovered his place in the rectory garden two dead owls. Shortly before 53 dead crows were found. "The animals were on a slip road of the village dead in their sleeping trees," says Ingrid Schildhauer, the spokeswoman of the salt district.

Among the dead was also an animal that had survived. "The weakened, flightless crow was maintained until she felt better," says the press officer and informed that the Veterinary Services have sent the dead animals to study, to clarify the cause of death."For this, we are but as yet no results." Even one of the two dead owls will now be examined. Because: "A connection with the dead crows is suspected."

… "With the two, it is particularly tragic," nods and Reinhard Kunert, "as it involves a red-listed species." Why do the birds have died, that the expert can only guess at present."The owls are now being tested for bird diseases, but it stands to reason that they have as a mouser, perhaps eaten poisoned mice." There were also other ways to catch mice, Pastor Beyer therefore appeals to the people and asks them to dispense with poison.]

Mitteldeutsche Zeitung -
29 Nov 2011
Location: Hoym, Germany - Map It 


Photo courtesy of The Guardian's Week in Wildlife