May 31, 2013

Novel Disease in Songbirds Demonstrates Evolution in the Blink of an Eye and other wildlife disease related news stories


Gold Coast council says botulism killed scores of birds

The Gold Coast City Council says it believes avian botulism has been responsible for the death of scores of water birds in a local flood channel. The birds which were mainly ducks have been removed from the Benowa flood channel.

... "We believe it's caused by a combination of stormwater run-off, pollutants in that stormwater and also the unusually cold snap of weather that we've had," he said.

"We had something like this going back about four years ago in the racecourse lakes, and we had about 40 dead birds there, but we're up to about 160 now."

ABC News
29 May 2013
R Varley
Location: Gold Coast, Australia - Map It

Novel Disease in Songbirds Demonstrates Evolution in the Blink of an Eye

A novel disease in songbirds has rapidly evolved to become more harmful to its host on at least two separate occasions in just two decades, according to a new study. The research provides a real-life model to help understand how diseases that threaten humans can be expected to change in virulence as they emerge.

"Everybody who’s had the flu has probably wondered at some point, 'Why do I feel so bad?'" said Dana Hawley of Virginia Tech, the lead author of the study to be published in PLOS Biology on May 28, 2013. "That’s what we’re studying: Why do pathogens cause harm to the very hosts they depend on? And why are some life-threatening, while others only give you the sniffles?"

Science Daily
28 May 2013

Cited Journal Article
Dana M. Hawley et al. Parallel Patterns of Increased Virulence in a Recently Emerged Wildlife Pathogen. PLOS Biology, 28 May 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001570

Warmer seas could lead to more dolphin deaths in South Australia

Dead dolphins and rotting fish could become a frequent feature on South Australian beaches due to warming seas.

Record high sea surface temperatures from summer to April caused thousands of small fish to wash up dead in SA gulf waters. It stressed 33 dolphins to the point they succumbed to a virus normally suppressed by immunity....

Fish that littered beaches on both sides of the Spencer Gulf and Gulf of St Vincent from 6 March to 26 April were linked to warm waters prolonging the life of naturally occurring algae caused by a three-day “upwelling” event – when winds work against the earth’s rotation to suck nutrient-rich waters from beyond the continental shelf and into shallow waters.

...Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins also washed up dead throughout the Gulf of St Vincent and surrounding waters from 1 March until 7 May.

University of Adelaide veterinary diagnostic laboratory operational manager Dr Stephen Pyecroft said the dolphins were likely to have been killed by the morbillivirus, a virus transmitted by close contact between dolphins.

Affected dolphins were mostly juvenile and likely to have been immuno-suppressed for a variety of reasons, including heat stress, although pathological results remained pending.

The Guardian
27 May 2013
M Sutton
Location: South Australia

Marine Mammal News
>>>Beached dolphin found near Darnley, PEI. [CCWHC blog -][Prince Edward Island, Canada - Map It  ]

New Tools to Hunt New Viruses

A new flu, H7N9, has killed 36 people since it was first found in China two months ago. A new virus from the SARS family has killed 22 people since it was found on the Arabian Peninsula last summer.

In past years, this might have been occasion for panic. Yet chicken and pork sales have not plummeted, as they did during flus linked to swine and birds. Travel to Shanghai or Mecca has not been curtailed, nor have there been alarmist calls to close national borders.

Is this relatively calm response in order? Or does the simultaneous emergence of two new diseases suggest something more dire? Actually, experts say, the answer to both questions may well be yes.

“We’ve done a great job globally in the last 10 years,” said Dr. William B. Karesh, a wildlife veterinarian and chief of health policy for the EcoHealth Alliance, which tracks animal-human outbreaks. “Compared to H5N1 and SARS, we’re getting on top of these diseases much, much faster.”

But he added that “people have become desensitized over time — it’s ‘Oh, O.K., another one.’ ” And scientists say the world cannot afford to relax. The threat is real. New diseases are emerging faster than ever.

New York Times
27 May 2013
DG McNeil

Montana agency rules out fever in 1 bison death [Gardiner, Montana, USA - Map It ]

Virus Causing Fish Kill in Irondequoit Bay [Irondequoit Bay, New York, USA - Map It  ]
Salamanders are like the canary in the coal mine
Moose population drop studied [Canada]

Map of confirmed chronic wasting disease cases in farmed and wild herds
Chronic Wasting Disease

One Health News Corner

Avian Influenza News
West Nile Virus News

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