Tag Archives: Toxoplasmosis

MICHIGAN to ban FERAL SWINE sporting operations if Legislature fails to pass regulations ~ CDC says new INFLUENZA VIRUS discovered in GUATEMALAN FRUIT BATS probably not a threat to HUMANS ~ RABIES reports from GEORGIA (2), KANSAS, NEW MEXICO, NORTH CAROLINA (2), PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TEXAS, & VIRGINIA (2).

Wild Boar. Photo by Richard Bartz. Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan 02/29/12 minbcnews.com: The statewide ban on feral swine is scheduled to take effect on April 1, but Department of Natural Resources officials say the industry could still be saved if the legislature passes a law regulating the industry before then. Officials estimate there are about 35 sporting swine operations in the state–some are breeders, some are game ranches. The DNR says 10 of those operations are located in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula), but there could be more because until now, the industry has been unregulated without any reporting requirements.

So what exactly are feral swine? Some are wild boar and some are simply domestic pigs that escaped into the wild and interbred with the wild boar. Most are between 100 and 200 pounds, but some have weighed in at over 500 pounds. They’re considered an intelligent animal, good swimmers, and quick runners. The wild boar originated in Europe and Asia, and came to the United States, as best we can tell, in the late 19th century. They were brought here for sporting purposes. As many as four million feral swine (both the original boar and the pigs that have interbred with them) may now populate the U.S., but most are in the South, Texas in particular. The so-called razorback of Arkansas is a feral swine.

Michigan has an estimated 1500-3000 feral swine, most of them downstate. The DNR believes they may have been introduced into the state as recently as 15 years ago. They look different from the domestic pig. They have thick, bristly coats, longer legs, a narrow head and snout, and a distinctive, prominent ridge of hair on their spine (hence, the name razorback). Their meat is said to be tasty and they’re considered a good sporting breed. So what’s the problem? Why are they being banned in Michigan? “They can transmit disease to humans,” explains Debbie Munson Badini, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources. “And that includes toxoplasmosis and trichinosis. They also damage our livestock, specifically pigs, with brucellosis, peudo-rabies and tuberculosis.” She points out that a local meat processor recently came down with bacterial meningitis after processing wild boar meat. And the damage, she says, goes beyond that. Feral swine tear up crops and trees. They can driver farmers crazy. So why not just ban the swine in the wild, but leave the gaming operations alone?

That could happen, Badini says, if the state legislature decides to act. The DNR, she emphasizes, isn’t out to destroy the businesses of breeders and ranchers. “It is a concern,” she says. “We’re not happy about that but we have to look at the bigger picture in our state. The damage is huge.” There’s the concern also that the swine at gaming ranches can escape. They’re known to be resourceful animals. Whether the legislature and the DNR can be just as resourceful in preserving an industry while ridding the state of a pest, remains to be seen.

Little yellowshouldered bat. Photo by Tobusaru. Wikimedia Commons.

Global 02/27/12 cdc.gov: News Release – A new influenza A virus discovered in fruit bats in Guatemala does not appear to present a current threat to humans, but should be studied as a potential source for human influenza, according to scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who worked with University of the Valley of Guatemala. The study was published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue,” said Dr. Suxiang Tong, team lead of the Pathogen Discovery Program in CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases and lead author of the study.  “The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses.”

For the bat influenza virus to infect humans, it would need to obtain some genetic properties of human influenza viruses. This can occur in nature through a process called reassortment. Reassortment occurs when two or more influenza viruses infect a single host cell, which allows the viruses to swap genetic information. Reassortment is a complicated chain of events that can sometimes lead to the emergence of new influenza viruses in humans. Preliminary CDC research on the new virus suggests that its genes are compatible with human influenza viruses.  “Fortunately, initial laboratory testing suggests the new virus would need to undergo significant changes to become capable of infecting and spreading easily among humans,” said Dr. Ruben Donis, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division and a study co–author.  “A different animal – such as a pig, horse or dog –would need to be capable of being infected with both this new bat influenza virus and human influenza viruses for reassortment to occur.”

Dr. Ruben Donis

Bat influenza viruses are known only to infect little yellow–shouldered bats, which are common in Central and South America and are not native to the United States.  CDC works with global disease experts to monitor influenza viruses that circulate in animals, which could affect humans.  Previous pandemics of the 20th century, as well as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, were caused by influenza viruses in animals that gained the ability to infect and spread easily in humans. For more information about CDC’s global disease detection and emergency response activities, please see www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/gdder/gdd/. Influenza related information, including influenza in animals, is available at www.cdc.gov/flu. To view the study, please visit www.cdc.gov/eid.

Georgia 02/28/12 Hall County: A skunk that was in contact with a dog on Campbell Road has tested positive for rabies. See http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/17036183/positive-rabies-alert-in-east-hall

Georgia 02/27/12 Milton, Fulton County: A dead raccoon found in the Freemanville Road area last week has tested positive for rabies. See http://alpharetta.patch.com/articles/dead-racoon-s-rabies-reminder-to-take-precautions

Kansas 02/29/12 Saline County: A horse has tested positive for rabies. It is the seventh case of the virus confirmed in animals statewide this year. See http://www.saljournal.com/news/story/rabies2-29-12

New Mexico 02/29/12 Carlsbad, Eddy County: The New Mexico Department of Health says 32 pet dogs from the Carlsbad area have been euthanized since December because they were exposed to known rabid animals and weren’t vaccinated against rabies. With the exception of puppies that were too young to be fully vaccinated, all of these deaths could have been prevented. Rabies vaccination of dogs and cats is mandated by state law. State health officials say that in addition to dogs, a number of livestock and at least one cat also have been euthanized due to rabies exposures. Eddy County is currently experiencing an animal rabies outbreak. Officials say 22 skunks, one dog, and one fox have tested positive for rabies in the Carlsbad area since December.

North Carolina 02/29/12 Iredell County: Officials say a second case of rabies has been confirmed in the county involving a raccoon that came in contact with an unvaccinated dog on Triplett Road east of Statesville. See http://www2.mooresvilletribune.com/news/2012/feb/29/county-confirms-second-case-rabies-ar-1983103/

North Carolina 02/27/12 New Hanover County: Health officials have confirmed the county’s fourth case of rabies this year in a raccoon captured after fighting with two dogs along Horne Place Drive. See http://myrtlegrove.wect.com/news/families/53847-fourth-rabies-case-confirmed-new-hanover-co

Pennsylvania 02/29/12 Horsham, Montgomery County: A bat killed by a pet dog has tested positive for rabies. See http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/montco_memo/140932133.html

South Carolina 02/27/12 Walhalla, Oconee County: A man is receiving PEP rabies treatments after being exposed to a raccoon that tested positive for rabies. See http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20120227/NEWS/302270052/Oconee-man-treated-in-rabies-case?odyssey=tab|mostpopular|text|NEWS

Texas 02/28/12 Lindale, Smith County: A skunk found near the 13000 block of CR 4200 has tested positive for rabies. See http://www.cbs19.tv/story/17039911/skunk-tested-positive-for-rabies-in-lindale

Virginia 02/27/12 Pittsylvania County: A raccoon that scratched an individual and several pets in the Museville Road area has tested positive for rabies. See http://www2.godanriver.com/news/2012/feb/27/rabies-alert-issued-area-pittsylvania-county-ar-1720226/

Virginia 02/28/12 Amherst County: A 2-year-old pet dog that had not been vaccinated for rabies and was acting strangely had to be euthanized and it tested positive for the virus. Family members are receiving PEP rabies treatments. See http://www.wset.com/story/17038588/rabies-case-confirmed-after-death-of-dog

FLORIDA zoo training FERAL CATS to protect exotic residents and visitors ~ MOUNTAIN LION report from CALIFORNIA ~ NIH scientists begin CHIKUNGUNYA VACCINE trial ~ TRAVEL WARNINGS for BRAZIL.

Florida 12/18/11 palmbeachdailynews.com: by Carolyn Susman — The next time you visit the Palm Beach Zoo, feel free to feed the ducks and the geese and to follow the roaming peacock around. But stay clear of Snuggle Cat. He’s working. Snuggle Cat is part of a unique experiment the zoo is conducting to reduce the number of feral cats that have invaded zoo property and that can pose a health threat to zoo animals. Shockingly, over the past years, there have been deaths at the zoo because of cat-borne illnesses such as toxoplasmosis that can cause fatal infections in kangaroos and wallabies. And the feline leukemia virus can threaten the health of jaguars, tigers and African servals. The problem even affected which zoo animals were brought in and how they were housed. “Decisions were made, that were big time, not to get new animals or create new exhibits,” said Dr. Michele Miller, director of conservation medicine for the zoo and a veterinarian. The problem was hard to control. “Being in the center of an urban park, we find that the feral cats wander in on their own or are dropped off,” says Miller. She says that two or three feral cats a week would show up on zoo grounds and later produce kittens. Zoo staff tried collecting the animals and relocating them to places like the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, but that became increasingly difficult. And it didn’t stop the ferals from invading.

About six months ago, a “team decision” was made to neuter a couple of these cats, treat them for illnesses, vaccinate them, and act toward them the way “a responsible pet owner would.” The object was to create “resident” cats that would view the zoo as their own territory and patrol it against the invasion of others, Miller explained. So far, it seems to be successful. “I do think it’s helping,” she said. “We’re not seeing other feral cats. We don’t have to deal with taking ferals where they might have to be destroyed or to be concerned that they have introduced diseases to staff or visitors.” Snuggle Cat is one of these new residents. He’s friendly, but signs are posted that caution against petting him or approaching him like a house cat. There’s always the possibility he might bite or nip a stranger. And having cats like Snuggle Cat around doesn’t slow the zoo’s strict approach to keeping its animals well.

The zoo staff works “very hard” to keep its animals healthy, Miller said, and the feral cats had presented a “very significant concern.” The zoo’s animals are vaccinated, but the shots are “not 100 percent effective.” So, removing a possible source of infection was extremely important. Miller is aware that treating feral cats this way is controversial. She knows that the trap, neuter, release approach can draw opposition — as it has in Palm Beach — because the cats can present a threat to native wildlife. Even house cats, though, can hunt for fun. Snuggle and the other patrol cats are “very well-fed” to prevent these instincts from over taking them, Miller points out, so Snuggle is often content to stretch out on the porch of the zoo’s cafe and take in the sun. “It’s an up-close and personal zoo,” Miller says with a smile. And Snuggle Cat helps it stay that way.

California 12/19/11 Altadena, Los Angeles County: Mountain lion sighting reported. See http://altadena.patch.com/articles/mountain-lion-spotted-on-lake-ave-sunday-morning
Global 12/20/11 nih.gov: News Release — An experimental vaccine to prevent chikungunya fever, a viral disease spread by certain species of mosquitoes, is being tested in a clinical trial conducted by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) scientists at the National Institutes of Health. The vaccine was developed by researchers at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC) using non-infectious virus-like particles to prompt an immune response. The trial is testing the vaccine’s safety and ability to elicit antibodies against chikungunya virus. It will enroll 25 healthy adults aged 18 to 50 years.

Chikungunya virus infection is generally not fatal but it can cause debilitating symptoms, most often fever, headache and severe joint pain. Symptoms usually subside in a few weeks but can last for months. The first cases of illness were reported in the early 1950s in east Africa. The disease is now endemic throughout much of Africa and parts of Asia. India, for example, has reported frequent outbreaks with significant public health impact, including a 2006 outbreak that lasted eight months and resulted in 1.25 million suspected cases of illness. Global travel and trade have increased the risk that the disease will spread. A 2007 outbreak of chikungunya fever in Italy prompted concern that the virus is becoming established in non-tropical settings and could pose a worldwide threat. There is no specific treatment for the illness and no vaccine to prevent it.

Dr. Gary Nabel

“A vaccine to prevent chikungunya fever, an emerging global health concern, would address an important need,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “If successful, this approach also might be used to develop vaccines against related mosquito-borne viruses, including those that cause Western, Eastern and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human infections with these equine viruses are rare, but, in the case of Eastern equine encephalitis, more than 30 percent of infected people die and most of the survivors suffer serious neurological complications. In 2010, scientists led by VRC Director Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D, reported that rhesus monkeys inoculated with the virus-like particle chikungunya vaccine 15 weeks prior to virus exposure were completely shielded from infection. Monkey blood serum containing anti-chikungunya antibodies generated by the VLP vaccine also protected immune-deficient mice from becoming infected with chikungunya virus, the scientists showed.

Travel Warnings:

Brazil 12/19/11 CDC.gov: News Release — Yellow fever is a risk for travelers to most areas of Brazil, except coastal regions. During 2009, an outbreak of yellow fever, including a number of deaths, occurred in parts of southeastern Brazil that had not been affected by yellow fever for many years. In response, the Brazil Ministry of Health has gradually expanded the list of municipalities for which yellow fever vaccination is recommended in the four southeastern states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul.

Globally, yellow fever occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America and is spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, backache, nausea, and vomiting.

Currently, Brazil and CDC recommend yellow fever vaccination for travelers to the following states:

  • All areas of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Distrito Federal (including the capital city of Brasília), Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins.
  • Other designated areas of the following states: Bahia, Paraná, Piauí, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and São Paulo. Vaccination is also recommended for travelers visiting Iguassu Falls.
  • Vaccination is NOT recommended for travel to the following coastal cities: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife, and Fortaleza.

Brazil currently does not require yellow fever vaccination for entrance into the country. However, travelers are strongly urged to get the yellow fever vaccine before traveling to an area of Brazil with risk of yellow fever virus transmission.

Stanford study confirms prenatal TOXOPLASMOSIS testing could prevent infant brain and eye disease ~ TICK bite leaves Delaware man with TULAREMIA ~ RABIES reports from California, Connecticut (2), New York, North Carolina, & Wisconsin ~ AUTHOR’S NOTE.

National 10/05/11 stanford.edu: by Erin Digitale — Pregnant women in the United States don’t receive routine testing for toxoplasmosis infection. That’s a potentially serious deficiency in our prenatal care, according to the authors of a new Stanford study. Their research found much higher rates of serious brain and eye disease among U.S. infants with congenital toxoplasmosis than among similar infants in Europe, where the prenatal testing is routine. This finding was a surprise in a study originally designed to compare laboratory methods for detecting congenital toxoplasmosis. From a press release I wrote about the research, which appears today in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: Eighty-four percent of the North American infants studied had serious complications of the parasitic infection, including calcium deposits in the brain, water on the brain and eye disease that caused visual impairment or blindness. By contrast, few European infants had these problems – for instance, about 17 percent of French infants with the infection develop complications.

Dr. Jose Montoya

“It was a shock,” said Jose Montoya, MD, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of Medicine in Infectious Diseases at Stanford. “We were dismayed to see so many little ones with severe eye disease, hydrocephalus and brain calcifications.” Montoya gave several reasons the U.S. should implement routine prenatal testing for the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. First, expectant women can pick up toxoplasmosis without realizing it. Educating women about risky behaviors to avoid during pregnancy (such as cleaning a cat’s litter box, consuming undercooked meat or gardening without gloves) prevents some infections, but women without any known risk factors can also contract toxoplasmosis. Second, effective medications exist to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite – and babies who receive these drugs in utero have much lower rates of complications than the infants in Montoya’s study, whose mothers did not get the prophylactic meds. Also, the prenatal tests are easy to do: they could be handled by any commercial lab, could use blood already drawn in pregnancy for other tests and could be made fairly cheap at $5 to $10 a pop. Finally, parents deserve to know about the infection: “We are strong believers that pregnant women have the right to know whether the baby is at risk, or whether the baby has been infected, in the same way that parents have a right to know if their baby has a metabolic defect or a hearing problem,” Montoya said.

Delaware 10/07/11 delawareonline.com: Delaware health authorities are reporting the first case of tularemia confirmed in the state since 2003. The illness associated with tick bites has put a 45-year-old Kent County man in a hospital and he is responding to treatment, according to a statement today from Heidi Truschel-Light of the Division of Public Health. She said the disease was confirmed by the state health lab on Thursday. The potentially fatal illness is not spread person-to-person but directly from tick, deerfly or other insect bites, according to the CDC. ”Domestic cats are very susceptible to tularemia and have been known to transmit the bacteria to humans. Humans can become infected by handling infected animal tissue when hunting or skinning infected rabbits, muskrats and other rodents; by inhaling dust or aerosols contaminated with the bacteria, such as during farming or landscaping activities, especially when tractors or mowers run over an infected animal or carcass. The disease can also be transmitted by drinking untreated water contaminated with the bacteria introduced by animal contact,” Truschel-Light said.

California 10/06/11 pe.com: by Sarah Burge – A 3-year-old girl is receiving medical treatment after a bat, which later tested positive for rabies, became entangled in her hair while she was playing outside in Lake Elsinore, authorities said. Animal control officers were called out Saturday night to collect the bat, which the girl’s mother had captured, said Officer Monique Middleton of Animal Friends of the Valleys. The child was in the 2900 block of Enterprise Way about 8 p.m. when the bat flew into her hair, Middleton said. There likely was a light nearby attracting bugs, which, in turn, drew the bat, Middleton said. – For complete article go to http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/lake-elsinore/lake-elsinore-headlines-index/20111006-lake-elsinore-girl-3-exposed-to-rabid-bat.ece

Connecticut 10/06/11 norwichbulletin.com: by Greg Smith – The state alerted Norwich Animal Control today that a kitten found in a Norwich apartment building has tested positive for rabies. Police are now warning of possible rabies exposure to other animals since the 11-week-old yellow Tabby is believed to have been in the company of other cats. The kitten was brought to the undisclosed clinic with injuries and the person who delivered the cat to the clinic indicated they found the cat in the hall of their apartment in Norwich, said Norwich Police Lt. Albert L. Costa. The person who left the cat at the clinic left without giving specifics, police said. Police and the Uncas Health District urge anyone who knows where the cat came from or the person who brought the cat to the clinic to contact the Uncas Health District at (860) 823-1189, the Norwich police animal control officer at (860) 885-5561 and their family physician.

Connecticut 10/06/11 courant.com: Enfield – A raccoon found in a backyard on Franklin Street Monday has tested positive for rabies, the first confirmed case in town since December 2009, police said. Enfield Animal Control received a call about the raccoon, found in a fenced-in backyard at 9:15 a.m. Monday, police said. When they arrived, the animal was already dead and was transported to the state lab for testing. Two of the homeowner’s dogs, who were in the yard with the raccoon, are vaccinated for rabies and up-to-date on shots. They also received booster vaccinations.

New York 10/06/11 patch.com: by Sarah Studley – The Westchester County Department of Health is issuing a rabies alert to residents who may have had contact with a rabid kitten in Ossining, near the intersection of James and State streets on or before Saturday, Oct. 1. The kitten was a light-haired calico, about three or four months old, with white, gray and orange markings. There were reported to be five or six other cats in the area where the kitten was found. The kitten had been clawing at the pavement and attacked an adult cat before a passerby caught the kitten in a laundry bag, placed it in a dog crate in her car and brought it to the SPCA in Briarcliff. The kitten was confirmed rabid on Wednesday, Oct. 5. The health department used robo-calls to notify residents who live within a quarter-mile of the area where the kitten was found. Anyone who believes that they or a pet may have had contact with the rabid calico kitten should contact the Westchester County Department of Health immediately at (914) 813-5000 to assess the need for rabies treatment. All animal bites or contacts with animals suspected of having rabies must be reported to the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000, 24 hours a day. For more information, go to www.westchestergov.com/health or call the RABIES INFOLINE at (914) 813-5010.

North Carolina 10/06/11 statesville.com: A dead skunk found on Damascus Church Road in northern Iredell County was found to have rabies recently. It is Iredell’s sixth confirmed case this year, according to the Iredell County Health Department.

Wisconsin 10/06/11 wausaudailyherald.com: The Marathon County Health Department is looking for a cat that bit a woman Monday in Wausau. The bite occurred in the 1200 block of North Fourth Street and the cat is described as being gray in color with long hair, according to a news release. Anyone who sees this cat or knows who owns the cat should call the health department at 715-261-1908, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department at 715-849-7785 or the Humane Society of Marathon County at 715-845-2810.  Authorities must find the cat to determine the cat’s vaccination status. The woman who was bitten could face a series of rabies shots if the cat is not found.


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Ohio State University scientists use new math and computer techniques to identify six viruses genetically close to H1N1 Swine Flu; and UK’s Cats Protection says pregnant women safe from Toxoplasmosis if they follow simple guidelines.

Photo by Rafboy 15. Wikimedia Commons.

Global 06/13/11 eurekalert.org: Scientists using new mathematical and computational techniques have identified six influenza A viruses that have particularly close genetic relationships to the H1N1 “swine” flu virus that swept through the United States beginning in the spring of 2009. That virus eventually killed almost 18,000 people worldwide. Biological studies focused on these strains of influenza virus could shed light on how the 2009 pandemic strain of influenza emerged, aiding in efforts to forestall another pandemic, the researchers say. Five of these viruses were isolated from pigs, and the sixth had infected a human who worked with hogs.

The researchers arrived at these strains by using powerful computers to analyze the relationships between the genomes of more than 5,000 strains of influenza A that have been isolated over several decades and recently sequenced. Rather than using the conventional approach of constructing phylogenetic trees that illustrate organisms’ hypothetical ancestors, these scientists set up a network that captured paths leading from previously observed viruses to contemporary viruses. Biologists for years have used a tree to trace how viruses change over time by undergoing mutations, some of which allow them to resist attacks from immune systems or drugs, jump from host to host and keep surviving. But viruses also exchange genetic material with contemporaries, most commonly when two or more strains infect the same host. This process is called re-assortment, and this computer-based networking model is a novel way to see how it all happened in influenza in over time.

Dr. Daniel Janies

“It’s not unlike a social network, except that it’s tracking an exchange of genetic material rather than gossip,” said Daniel Janies, associate professor of biomedical informatics at Ohio State University and a co-author of the study. “This network gives us an explicit historical and molecular map of how influenza A viruses evolved from several ancestors to modern-day viruses.” Janies conducted the work with Ohio State co-authors Shahid Bokhari, a research professor of biomedical informatics, and Laura Pomeroy, a postdoctoral researcher in veterinary preventive medicine. The research is published online in the journal IEEE Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. (For complete article go to http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/osu-tu061311.php )

Global 06/13/11 madeformums.com: by Katie Garner – Cat loving pregnant women will be pleased to hear that they don’t have to get rid of their cats for the safety of their unborn child, as the charity Cats Protection issues guidelines to reassure mums.

A recent online survey of 1,500 mums or mums-to-be revealed that 60% of them believed their pets could pass on an illness to their babies, yet Cats Protection says that ditching your moggie† is unnecessary as 35% of women are given the wrong advice about toxoplasmosis. “Studies show that cat owners are statistically no more likely to get toxoplasmosis than non-cat owners.

Dr. Maggie Roberts

The chance of contracting the disease from your cat is very small indeed – in fact you are more likely to get it from handling raw meat,” said Maggie Roberts, Cat Protection’s Director of Veterinary Services “Of course all cat owners should practice good hygiene routines, especially hand washing after dealing with a litter tray and before handling food, but that’s just common sense,” Maggie continues “I’m horrified how many women give up a loved family pet because they wrongly believe they shouldn’t have contact with cats during pregnancy. This can upset the whole family. As for the poor cat, it goes into care and charities like Cats Protection are stuck with finding new homes – not an easy task in this current climate,” Dr Carol Cooper, a family doctor and parenting author, said. Maggie believes that many women were taking advice from non-qualified resources, such as some online forums and blogs as well as family members. Cats Protection suggests pregnant cat owners should follow these guidelines:

  • Get someone else to change your cat’s litter tray, but if you have to do it, make sure you wear gloves
  • Change your cat’s litter tray daily
  • Don’t feed your cat raw meat
  • Outdoor sandboxes should be kept covered
  • Gloves should be worn when gardening
  • Always wash your hands after contact with stray cats and kittens

† English term for a domesticated cat, sometimes used as the cat equivalent of a mongrel dog.

(For video titled “Toxoplasmosis – Don’t believe the old wives’ tales” go to http://www.madeformums.com/pregnancy/no-need-to-ditch-your-cat-during-pregnancy-experts-reveal/14171.html )

Bobcat with Rabies attacks man in Florida; Beaver believed to have Rabies attacks three people in Pennsylvania; Feral Cats in metro Detroit, Michigan, thought to number 657,000; a Coyote report from California; a public meeting being held in Minnesota to discuss Gray Wolf de-listing; and Rabies reports from South Carolina, and Virginia.

Bobcat. Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Florida 05/31/11 ecbpublishing.com: by Fran Hunt – The Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) issued a Rabies Alert in Jefferson County last week, which will remain in effect for the next 60 days, after a local man was attacked. The JCHD Environmental Health was notified of a possible rabid bobcat in the Lloyd area.  On the evening of May 18 the victim reported an attack by a bobcat.  The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson County Animal Control acquired the bobcat for testing. On May 20, the bobcat tested (FRA) positive (rabies) with (MAb) still pending. The victim began PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) treatment after presenting to the Emergency Department. JCHD Administrator Kim Barnhill, has issued a rabies alert for Jefferson County. (For complete article go to http://ecbpublishing.com/?p=590  .)

Pennsylvania 06/02/11 myfoxphilly.com: Pennsylvania Game Commission officials say a rabid beaver was killed in Philadelphia on Thursday near the Roosevelt Boulevard, and the public should be alert to other rabid rodents. It is the second incident of a rabid beaver in the Philadelphia since April. The beaver attacked a couple and a small child in separate incidents, and a Fairmount Park ranger captured the beaver about 500 yards from where it bit the child. Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Jerry Czech said the beaver attacked three individuals over the past two days, June 1 and 2, in the Pennypack Creek area between Bustleton Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia. The beaver was killed and taken to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, Chester County, to be tested for rabies.

Michigan 06/01/11 freep.com: by Megha Satyanarayana – On a nondescript block in east Ferndale slammed with foreclosures and vacancies, a new breed of squatters is slowly taking over. A colony of dozens of homeless cats are living, breeding and dying among the houses on this street. At one house, the smell of urine fills the air along the foundation. By one estimate, there are about 657,000 feral cats in metro Detroit — that’s 16 cats for every seat at Comerica Park. The cat population strains animal control and animal welfare groups, which say they have limited money and space. Free-roaming cats often harbor illnesses that spread between cats and sometimes, to humans, said Dr. Steve Halstead, state veterinarian. Just one example: Pregnant women are advised against cleaning litter boxes for fear of the parasite that causes fetus- endangering toxoplasmosis; gardening in cat-trafficked yards carries a similar risk. Southfield has agreed to be the pilot community for a $100,000 county program to catch, sterilize and release feral cats and a Warren animal welfare group is teaching people how to literally herd cats. “You can’t just adopt your way out of the situation,” said Amber Sitko, president of All About Animals Rescue in Warren. More animal welfare groups are promoting trap-neuter-release programs as a surefire way to decrease the population of feral or free-roaming cats in the Detroit area, but wildlife groups say the programs don’t alleviate all of the problems. By one calculation cited by the Petsmart Charities, there are approximately 657,000 homeless cats in the area. The Humane Society of the United States estimates the nation’s free-roaming cat population at 50 million, while another study published by Best Friends Animal Society estimates 87 million feral cats nationwide — 22 cats for every square mile of land and water in the U.S. (For complete article go to http://www.freep.com/article/20110601/NEWS05/106010376/Feral-cat-population-metro-Detroit-overwhelms-animal-welfare-groups-residents .)

California 06/02/11 msn.com: by Claire Webb – Animal services is trying to trap an aggressive coyote that is believed to have killed a small dog and injured a woman last week in the Laguna Woods Village retirement community. Four box traps have been set out in areas with heavy brush to catch a coyote that has killed one dog and at least five cats in the area in the last week, said Joy Falk, senior animal services officer with the Laguna Beach Police Department’s Animal Services, which serves Laguna Woods. Falk said cat food is placed inside the box trap and when an animal steps on a pressure-sensitive pedal, the trap door closes. Falk would not say where the traps have been placed to avoid people tampering with them. Traps have been set out after an elderly woman was walking her small, mixed-breed dog on a leash around 10 a.m. on Saturday on Avenida Majorca and a coyote began attacking the dog, Falk said. Falk said the woman tried to wrestle the dog away and was bitten in the scuffle — it was unclear if the bite was from the coyote or the dog. The dog was taken to a local veterinarian and later died. The woman had to undergo a series of shots for rabies treatment and is in stable condition, Falk said. (For complete article go to http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/43258339/ns/local_news-orange_county_ca/

Minnesota 06/02/11 wisbusiness.com:  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host a public information meeting about its recent proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protection for the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes region, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The meeting will take place on June 14, 2011, from 6 pm to 8 pm at Davies Theater in Davies Hall at Itasca Community College, 1851 East Highway 169, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  Members of the public will have the opportunity to view a presentation, receive information and ask questions about the Service’s proposal.(For complete article go to http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=238214  )

South Carolina 06/02/11 thesunnews.com: by Steve Jones – An Horry County man is undergoing treatment after being bitten and scratched by a stray cat that tested positive for rabies, according to a news release from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The man was attacked by the animal in the Colonial Charters subdivision in Longs, the release said. The animal was the second confirmed positive for rabies in Horry County this year. In 2010, seven rabid animals were confirmed in Horry County. There were 106 confirmed cases of rabid animals statewide in 2010. So far this year, there have been 38 confirmed cases, the release said.

Virginia 06/02/11 richlands-news-press.com: The Mount Rogers Health District is issuing a second rabies alert following three additional positive rabies cases in Carroll County within the last two weeks of May, bringing the total this year to five.  On May 23, a fox found dead in the north end of the town of Hillsville was determined to be positive for rabies.  On May 24, the health department was notified of a dog fighting with a raccoon in the Cana area which was also positive.  On May 31, the health department received two additional reports concerning a fox and a raccoon, both of which were determined to be positive for rabies.  The fox was found in the same area in Hillsville as the fox found on May 23.  In all instances, domestic dogs and/or cats were exposed to these rabid animals. If anyone has questions about rabies protection or possible exposures they may contact the Carroll County Health department at (276) 730-3180. For more information on rabies, log onto the Virginia Department of Health’s Rabies Control and Prevention Web site at http://www.vdh.state.va.us/epi/rabiesf.htm.

USGS study finds Lichens may be key to fighting Chronic Wasting Disease; CDC learns pet Frog breeder source of Salmonella outbreak; FDA approves new test for Toxoplasmosis; Hantavirus reports from Colorado, and Maine; a Coyote report from Mississipppi; Lyme Disease forums to be held in New Hampshire, and New Jersey; and Rabies reports from New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia. Travel Warnings for Dominica.

Bull moose. Public domain photo. Wikimedia Commons.

National 05/18/11 eurekalert.org: Certain lichens can break down the infectious proteins responsible for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a troubling neurological disease fatal to wild deer and elk and spreading throughout the United States and Canada, according to U.S. Geological Survey research published today in the journal PLoS ONE.  Like other “prion” diseases, CWD is caused by unusual, infectious proteins called prions. One of the best-known of these diseases is “mad cow” disease, a cattle disease that has infected humans. However, there is no evidence that CWD has infected humans. Disease-causing prions, responsible for some incurable neurological diseases of people and other diseases in animals, are notoriously difficult to decontaminate or kill. Prions are not killed by most detergents, cooking, freezing, or by autoclaving, a method used to sterilize medical instruments.

Dr. Christopher Johnson

“When prions are released into the environment by infected sheep or deer, they can stay infectious for many years, even decades,” said Christopher Johnson, Ph.D., a scientist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and the lead author of the study. “To help limit the spread of these diseases in animals, we need to be able to remove prions from the environment.” The researchers found that lichens have great potential for safely reducing the number of prions because some lichen species contain a protease enzyme (a naturally produced chemical) capable of significantly breaking down prions in the lab.

Whitetail deer with CWD

“This work is exciting because there are so few agents that degrade prions and even fewer that could be used in the environment without causing harm,” said Jim Bennett, Ph.D., a USGS lichenologist and a co-author of the study.  CWD and scrapie in sheep are different than other prion diseases because they can easily spread in sheep or deer by direct animal-to-animal contact or through contact with contaminated inanimate objects like soil. Chronic wasting disease was first diagnosed in the 1960s and has since been detected in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. CWD has been detected in wild elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose in North America.  Lichens, said Johnson, produce unique and unusual organic compounds that aid their survival and can have antibiotic, antiviral and other chemotherapeutic activities. In fact, pharmaceutical companies have been examining the medicinal properties of lichens more closely in recent years.

Lichens on rocks.

Lichens – which are often mistaken for moss – are unusual plant-like organisms that are actually a symbioses of fungi, algae and bacteria living together. They usually live on soil, bark, leaves and wood and can live in barren and unwelcoming environments, including the Arctic and in deserts.  Future work will examine the effect of lichens on prions in the environment and determine if lichen consumption can protect animals from acquiring prion diseases. Contact: Gail Moede gmrogall@usgs.gov 608-270-2438 United States Geological Survey

National 05/20/11 cdc.gov: mmwr 60(19);628 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collaborating with state and local public health departments in an ongoing investigation of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections associated with African dwarf frogs (ADFs). ADFs are aquatic frogs commonly kept in home aquariums as pets. From April 1, 2009 to May 10, 2011, a total of 224 human infections with a unique strain of S. Typhimurium were reported from 42 states. This outbreak likely includes considerably more than the 224 laboratory-confirmed cases reported to CDC; only an estimated 3% of Salmonella infections are laboratory confirmed and reported to surveillance systems.

The median age of patients in this outbreak was 5 years (range: <1–67 years), and 70% (156 of 223) were aged <10 years. No deaths have been reported, but 30% (37 of 123) of patients were hospitalized. Sixty-five percent (56 of 86) of patients interviewed reported contact with frogs in the week before illness; 82% (45 of 55) reported that this contact took place in the home. Of those who could recall the type of frog, 85% (29 of 34) identified ADFs. Median time from acquiring a frog to illness onset was 15 days (range: 7–240 days).

African Dwarf Frog

Samples collected during 2009–2011 from aquariums housing ADFs in six homes of patients yielded the S. Typhimurium outbreak strain. Traceback investigations conducted during 2009–2011 from 21 patient homes and two ADF distributors identified a breeder in California as the common source of ADFs. This breeder sells ADFs to distributors, not directly to pet stores or to the public. Environmental samples collected at the breeding facility in January 2010, April 2010, and March 2011 yielded the outbreak strain. Based on these epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings, the breeder voluntarily suspended distribution of ADFs on April 19, 2011. Public health officials are working with the breeder to implement control measures.

Distribution of ADFs currently is unregulated by federal or state agencies. To prevent infection, the public needs to be aware of the risk of Salmonella infections associated with keeping amphibians, including frogs, as pets. Education of consumers, health-care professionals, and the pet industry is needed. Persons at high-risk for Salmonella infections, especially children <5 years, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons, should avoid contact with frogs, water used by the frogs, and their habitats. Additional information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/water-frogs-0411.

National 05/19/11 usnews.com: A new test to detect whether a toxoplasmosis infection has been acquired within the past four months has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Vidas Toxo IgG Avidity Assay — approved for people with a toxoplasmosis infection confirmed by other methods — can be used to validate whether infection by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite is less than four months old. Human antibodies triggered by the parasite behave differently after four months than they do initially. Toxoplasmosis, sometimes called “cat scratch disease” can be passed from mother to unborn child. The infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or an abnormally sized fetal head. In the child’s later life, it can lead to vision loss, mental impairment or seizures, the FDA said in a news release. While exposure to cats and used cat litter are primary methods of transmission, toxoplasmosis also can be transmitted by other animals and birds. And the parasite can be acquired by eating raw or undercooked meat. Typical warning signs among people include swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms, the FDA said. The test is produced by bioMerieux Inc., based in Hazelwood, Mo.

Colorado 05/19/11 epcan.com: by Janet Huntington – Elbert resident Nikki Clark wasn’t thinking about Hantaviruswhen she cleaned out her tack room. It was simple spring cleaning at the Clark residence. When she first began to feel ill on April 17, Clark assumed she had the flu. She was still able to work, but within three days she had developed pneumonia-like symptoms and was home in bed. Another three days passed and she was admitted to the hospital. Four days later her blood work showed she had Hantavirus and Clark and her husband, realtor Pete Clark, learned her life was in danger. “This disease attacks your lungs and heart. It is imperative that you get oxygen into your system…The statistics are, of the people entering the hospital for this virus, 50% don’t make it,” Clark said in a written statement. “My recovery has been very slow, but I see

Deer mouse

an improvement every day. Because of the low recovery rate, the doctors don’t know too much about normal recovery time,” she added.

Maine 05/18/11 bangordailynews.com: A 70-year-old Somerset County man who has the dubious distinction of becoming Maine’s first-ever case of Hantavirus has survived thanks to a quick medical response, according to an article written by Meg Haskell and published in the Bangor Daily News.  Dr. Stephen Sears, Maine’s state epidemiologist, said the man was treated in the intensive care unit of a local hospital and is now recovering in a rehab facility.  Dr. Sears said state inspectors found the man’s home was contaminated with mice.  Hantavirus is associated with deer mice and other rodents.

Mississippi 05/17/11 sunherald.com: by Mary Perez – Biloxi – Coyotes are killing pets and scaring residents throughout the city and Councilman Tom Wall said Tuesday the city has to find some way to deal with them before a child is mutilated or killed. “It seems to be a growing problem,” said Paul Mallery, one of a half-dozen residents who came to Tuesday’s Council meeting with their concerns.  “I’ve seen them in the street,” Mallery said.  One neighbor saw a coyote at the back door and he said a friend in the Woolmarket area watched a coyote grab his dog and carry it into the woods. Mallery said the city also has red foxes, which carry disease. “It’s like we’re under siege,” he said. Biloxi Police Lt. Harold Windom said he doesn’t know how to get rid of coyotes. Experts with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries told the police three effective methods are traps, poison and snares.  But Windom said these solutions, or shooting the animals, can’t safely be used in a city near so many children and pets. Windom said he would continue to look for some way to get the coyotes out of city neighborhoods.

New Hampshire 05/20/11 cabinet.com: by Sarah Clough – There will be a Lyme disease awareness evening Monday, May 23, at 6:30 in the Merrimack High School Little Theater. “Under Our Skin” will be shown, followed by a Q-and-A session with David Hunter, facilitator of the Greater Manchester Lyme Disease Support Group. Admission is free. For more information, e-mail sarah.clough@merrimack.k12.nh.us.

New Jersey 05/19/11 nj.com: The Salem County Health Department has confirmed the first case of rabies in the county for the year. A stray cat attacked a Pilesgrove woman here on May 15 at her home while she was taking out her recyclables. The cat bit the woman’s leg and latched on until the woman kicked the cat off, officials said in a press release on Wednesday. The cat hid until Ned Shimp, animal control officer, came to retrieve it. Shimp euthanized the cat and sent it to the state for testing, according to the release. The state confirmed that the stray cat was positive for rabies. The woman immediately went to South Jersey Healthcare-Elmer Hospital for post-exposure rabies treatment. For more information, please contact the Salem County Health Department at (856) 935-7510, ext. 8484 or visit www.cshealth.org .

New Jersey 05/19/11 northjersey.com: River Vale – On Wednesday, May 25, “ABC’s of Lyme Disease and Other Tick Borne Illnesses” will be presented at the River Vale Community/Senior Center. The free program, which will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m., will be presented by Kim Uffleman, a former board member of the Lyme Disease Association of New Jersey. For more information visit http://www.rivervalenj.org or call the health department at 201-664-2346.

Texas 05/18/11 kwtx.com: A skunk found a week ago in the backyard of a home on Regina Drive in Hewitt has tested positive for rabies, police said Wednesday. Hewitt police and Woodway animal control officers were attempting Wednesday to contact residents whose pets might have come into contact with the skunk. The effort is primarily focused on an area of Hewitt that includes the 600 block of Regina Drive and the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Dendron Drive.

Virginia 05/18/11 suffolknewsherald.com: by Tracy Agnew – A dog bitten by a fox in the Person Street area of Suffolk last week had to be euthanized after the fox tested positive for rabies, according to the Suffolk Health Department. The dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The owner, who was also bitten, has started a course of treatment to prevent rabies. The incident happened in the same area as a series of events May 6-7 in which a rabid fox attacked two children and a dog before being killed by the dog.

Travel Warnings:

Dominica 05/19/11 stabroeknews.com: The Government of Dominica has warned about an outbreak of Leptospirosis which has claimed the lives of the Director Agriculture on the island and another man, according to the Caribbean Media Corporation. CMC said that the director Richard Allport, died from the disease this week. The disease is most often transmitted in floodwater through contact with rat urine. Guyana had a serious outbreak of this disease in 2005 during the Great Flood. “The Ministry of Health in Dominica wishes to inform the general public that the outbreak of Leptospirosis announced by the Ministry last year has not yet subsided,” a Dominica Government statement said, according to CMC.

DNA analysis confirms Missouri Mountain Lions are from South Dakota, and its Timber Wolves are from the Great Lakes states; Smithsonian scientist says domestic cats, pet and feral, are primary predators of young Catbirds; a group in Arizona challenges Yuma’s Feral Cat ordinance; Rabies reports from California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas; and Coyote reports from California, and Indiana. Canada: Rabies report from Ontario.


Eastern Timber Wolves. Photo by Christian Jansky. Wikipedia Commons.


Missouri 03/29/11 infozine.com: by Jim Low – (Excerpts) Analysis of DNA and other physical evidence is helping biologists learn more about unusual wildlife sightings that have occurred in Missouri in recent months . . . Results confirm ties to mountain lions from South Dakota and timber wolves from the Great Lakes states . . . The string of sightings began Nov. 13 with the shooting of what appeared to be an unusually large coyote in Carroll County. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) sought DNA tests to clarify the animal’s identity  . . . The first round of testing compared DNA from the 104-pound canine to that of western timber wolves. The tests showed a poor match with western wolves but did confirm the presence of coyote DNA. However, further testing linked the animal to timber wolves.  “Coyotes seldom get bigger than 30 pounds in Missouri,” said MDC Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer. “A coyote weighing more than 100 pounds just didn’t seem credible. Wolves are known to interbreed with domestic dogs and coyotes, so we had further testing done to look for evidence of that, and we found it.”  . . . Missouri’s other recent news about large carnivores consists of six confirmed sightings of mountain lions (Puma concolor), also known as cougars, since November. MDC verified three of those sightings – in Platte, Linn and St. Louis counties . . . Two confirmed sightings involved mountain lions that were shot by hunters, one on Dec. 31 and one on Jan. 15. With ample tissue for testing on these two animals, the DNA results were more revealing. Both had DNA consistent with mountain lions from South Dakota or northwestern Nebraska. Beringer said mountain lions from northwestern Nebraska and the Black Hills region of South Dakota are so closely related, it is almost impossible to distinguish between them. (For complete article go to http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/46929/ )

National 03/18/11 washingtonpost.com: by Peter P. Marra – I love cats. And perhaps I’m being overly generous to myself, but they have a strange affection for me, too. They’ve been among the many pets I’ve had over the years, and they’re a key part of my work as a conservation scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.  I love wild birds, too, but unfortunately so do cats, so much so that, according to some estimates, they kill upward of 500 million songbirds a year in the United States alone.

Gray catbirds offer one example of this devastation. Long-distance migratory

Gray Catbird

birds native to the East Coast, catbirds breed in large numbers in the D.C. suburbs, arriving toward the end of April each year from their wintering grounds in Cuba, the Bahamas and southern Florida. Catbirds nests in shrubs, so our suburbs are especially attractive to them. What these catbirds and many other local songbirds don’t realize, however, is that a new (in evolutionary terms) danger lurks in those attractive bushes — the free-ranging cat. In a recently published study, my Smithsonian colleagues and I demonstrated that cats are the primary predators of young catbirds soon after they leave the nest. In fact, in some areas, less than 15 percent of these fledglings survived, largely because of cat predation. Free-ranging cats have turned the D.C. suburbs into ecological traps for birds — sites that attract them for nesting but ultimately cause high levels of reproductive failure.

The free-ranging domestic cat, both pet and feral, has become by far the most abundant mammalian predator on Earth, numbering 80 million to 120 million in the United States alone. You need only look into a neighbor’s yard or down an alley to find one. Unlike our native bobcat and lynx, free-ranging cats are as invasive and disruptive to native ecosystems as gypsy moths or West Nile virus. Whether they are pets allowed to roam, fully feral animals or feral members of a trap-neuter-release (TNR) colony, domestic cats are by nature predators of small animals such as reptiles, birds and mammals — even when they are well fed. It’s not surprising, then, that they have been responsible for numerous animal extinctions on islands. The millions of free-ranging cats in the United States are inflicting similar devastation on wildlife populations here.

I don’t enter lightly into the long-standing debate about free-ranging cats. On one side are people who think cats have a right to roam freely; on the other are those who believe a cat’s only proper place is inside a home. I come down with the latter because, apart from their impact on wildlife, outdoor lifestyles ironically also have negative consequences for cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that free-ranging cats have half the life expectancy of indoor cats. Causes of cat death can be gruesome — getting hit by cars, being mauled by dogs or becoming a meal for foxes and coyotes. Life outdoors also means greater exposure to diseases such as toxoplasmosis and feline leukemia. Cats are now the most common domesticated animal to carry and transmit rabies to humans and other wildlife.

The most egregious example occurs with feral cats living in or near TNR colonies. Maintenance of such colonies remains common in many urban and suburban parks and even some national wildlife refuges. The cats in these colonies, although fed, not only suffer the same fates as those described above for free-ranging ferals but the places in which they live can become devoid of most wildlife. Worse, these colonies encourage the dumping of unwanted cats. While neutering can slow a colony’s growth, it is rarely fully effective because more than 70 percent of the cats must be sterilized. New cats arrive, and many go unneutered and unvaccinated. The result is reproductively active colonies that continue to devastate wildlife.

What’s the solution? It is unreasonable to expect to see the elimination of all free-ranging cats, but better education about responsible pet ownership, combined with effective regulations, could reduce their numbers. Such efforts will require more involvement by government at all levels and the implementation of mandatory licensing, more-engaged animal control programs, neutering and indoor-cat campaigns.  For starters, the effects of TNR colonies need to be made clearer to the well-meaning people who support them. Although people on both sides of this debate feel passionately, there is an urgent need to come together to find common ground. Allowing cats to roam outdoors is no good for people, cats or native wildlife.

Arizona 03/29/11 kswt.com: by Elia Juarez – A group of Yuma residents calling themselves the “Kitty Committee” are challenging the city’s recently enacted feral cat ordinance. Members of the committee say it was unfair for the City Council to pass the ordinance without allowing a public vote, so they plan to man a booth at the Yuma County fair in an effort to collect enough signatures to temporarily overturn the ordinance and try to get it onto the ballot in Yuma’s next election. The group says they are opposed to a section of the ordinance that bans the feeding of stray cats, as well as required rabies vaccines and licenses for cats, saying many people cannot afford them.

California 03/29/11 krcrtv.com: Chico Animal Control and Police Department are looking for a dog that bit a teenager so it can be tested for rabies. Around 4:50 p.m. on Thursday a 16-year-old Chico High School student was running past the post office on Vallombrosa Ave. When she ran past a couple with a leashed, black dog, the dog nipped at her rear end. The girl and her fellow runners did not stop to get the couple’s information. The girl’s t-shirt was torn, but she didn’t realize until later that her skin was broken. The Humane Society needs to locate the dog to verify its vaccination history because Butte County is a rabies area. The couple is described as being in their 50’s. The woman has long gray hair. The dog is medium to large in size with a long hair black coat. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the dog or owners is asked to call Chico Animal Control at 897-4960.

California 03/29/11 marinij.com: by Jessica Berstein-Wax – San Anselmo police were chasing an unusual suspect Tuesday morning: a large coyote that ran off with a family’s pet cat in its mouth. Around 8:45 a.m., the owner of a home near Madera Avenue and Sequoia Drive called police and reported seeing the coyote with the family cat, police said. The homeowner had clapped to scare the wild animal away. “They tried to see if they could scare it by clapping loudly … but I guess it scampered off,” police Cpl. Julie Gorwood said. Officers located the coyote minutes later wandering in the area but haven’t recovered the feline, which is presumed dead, Gorwood said. There were about 36 coyote sightings reported to the Marin Humane Society between Jan. 1 and mid-March, society spokeswoman Carrie Harrington said.  “If you were to identify hot spots per se, definitely Terra Linda, Marinwood — we’re getting the most reports from there,” Harrington said. “Most of our reports are just sightings.” In February, Marinwood resident Jim Thompson said a coyote prowling the neighborhood killed two of his cats, a gray long-haired female called Alias and a fluffy yellow male named Big Boy. A Lucas Valley woman reported that a coyote with a broken front leg killed another cat in her neighborhood. Harrington confirmed there have been a few reports of a limping coyote or a coyote with an injured leg coming out of San Rafael and Novato in recent weeks. “There’s always speculation if somebody’s domestic cat is missing,” Harrington said. “That drums up suspicion. … What we do is we usually send an officer to patrol the area where the sighting is reported. Usually by the time somebody gets there, that coyote is nowhere to be seen.”  The humane society generally advises residents to keep domestic cats indoors, walk dogs on leashes and avoid feeding pets outdoors, especially in areas with wildlife such as coyotes and mountain lions. Experts say that if a coyote approaches you, try to make noise and appear large by shouting and waving your arms. The Marin Humane Society tracks all wildlife sightings and is asking anyone who sees a coyote or mountain lion to call 883-4621.

Indiana 03/29/11 wthr.com: by Emily Longnecker – (Excerpts) “People in a quiet Carmel neighborhood are on edge after a vicious coyote attack on a family pet. The coyote snatched a dog right outside a home near 116th Street and Spring Mill Road. If cats have nine lives then a little dog named Hilo has at least two.” “The dog has had surgery and now has dozens of stitches. ‘Fortunately, his wounds were superficial. They were mainly through the skin,’ says Hilo’s veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Mullins, with the Companion Animal Medical Center in Carmel. Mullins says he rarely treats animals that survive a coyote attack. But believes you could see more with more development. ‘Coyotes have adapted to the changing environment. It’s no longer a rural area. This is suburban and they’re adapting,’ says Dr. Mullins. According to the Department of Natural Resources, in rural areas, state law allows landowners to shoot or trap coyotes – even out of season – if they’ve become a problem. But it’s within city limits where people’s hands are tied. City law won’t allow homeowners to shoot a coyote. DNR experts recommend using an air horn to scare the animals away. Stetler hoped the city or county would handle the job.”

Massachusetts 03/29/11 patch.com: Medfield – Animal Control officer Jennifer Shaw told Medfield Patch a teenage boy was bitten on the leg by a medium size, black dog with curly fur and droopy ears Tuesday around 4:40 p.m. ‘This dog was being walked on Main Street by the railroad crossing on a black flexi-leash by a black male, approximately 5-foot-10 with a black mustache,” Shaw said. “This man was wearing a dark coat and a baseball cap. In order for [the teenager] to avoid a series of painful rabies vaccinations, we need to learn of this dog’s vaccination history.” If anyone knows the identity of this dog, please call Animal Control at (508) 359-2315 ext. 3146.

Pennsylvania 03/29/11 lehighvalleylive.com: by Alyssa Passeggio – Allentown police fatally shot a skunk after it bit a resident on Saturday, accoThe skunk was observed behaving oddly in the 2000 block of East Columbia Street before officers killed it, said the release from the mayor’s office. The skunk was sent for lab testing, which confirmed it was rabid. The bitten resident is undergoing rabies vaccinations and is under medical care, the city reports. Allentown Health Director Vicky Kistler says the discovery should remind pet owners to be sure their animals are vaccinated.

Texas 03/29/11 jacksboronewspapers.com: by Pam Hudson – (Excerpt) Jacksboro Police Chief Terry McDaniels confirmed that a skunk killed by a dog Wednesday on Cactus Lane was rabid. The dog is being held in quarantine for 90 days, but so far, does not exhibit signs of rabies. There have been no other cases of rabies in Jacksboro, but McDaniels knew of one confirmed case in Palo Pinto. (For complete article go to  http://www.jacksboronewspapers.com/index.asp?Story=3814 )


Ontario 03/29/11 therecord.com: by Brent Davis – Kitchener — The next few weeks aren’t looking all that pleasant for Matthew Vollmer. The 14-year-old is facing a series of rabies shots after being bitten by a dog over the weekend. But there’s still hope that he can cut the treatments short, if he and his parents can confirm that the dog has its vaccinations. The Vollmers are trying to locate the owner of the German shepherd-type dog, which was being walked by an older teen on Sunday afternoon in the area of Keewatin Avenue, Misty Street and Denlow Street. The teen was also walking a Rottweiler-type dog. Both animals were leashed. Matthew, an avid baseball player and martial arts student, was out running near his home when he came upon the other teen and the dogs. “I went to pass him on the right,” Matthew said. “The German shepherd-looking dog lunged at me and bit my thigh.” As Matthew instinctively pulled away, the teen apologized and asked if he was OK. The twin bites hadn’t torn Matthew’s pants. “I thought I was fine.” Matthew went home, not thinking about asking for the owner’s information. But he discovered the dog had left a jagged, seven-centimetre-long bite mark on his upper right thigh, and he was bleeding. The family went to Grand River Hospital, and filled out an animal bite form for the public health department. His father Dave also called Waterloo Regional Police. The Vollmers and police have knocked on doors in the area, but haven’t found the owner.  “Every time we get a lead, it turns out to be nothing,” said Matthew’s mother, Brenda.  Public health has since contacted the family, outlining the series of rabies shots required if the animal’s vaccination status isn’t known. After two shots on Wednesday and one on Saturday, Matthew will have three more shots over the next three weeks. But the shots could be discontinued if they locate the dog’s owner.  “That’s what we’re hoping, that he doesn’t have to finish the shots,” Dave Vollmer said. “All we want is to get the dog’s history.” The dog-walker, about 16 years old and approximately five feet six inches tall, was wearing a black hoodie. Anyone with information is asked to email davidvollmer@sympatico.ca.

Pennsylvania township disputes care and feeding of Stray Cats; Jim (Wingnut) Williams publishes opinions of The Wild Professional’s editor-in-chief concerning Stray Cats and TNR programs; Rabies reports from Florida, and North Carolina (2); and Coyote reports from Georgia, and Rhode Island.

Feral Cats by Scott Granneman. Wikipedia Commons.

Pennsylvania 03/21/11 go.com: by Katherine Scott – There’s a dispute going on in Radnor Township over the care and feeding of stray cats. The township wants to make it illegal.  The idea is to amend the language of an existing ordinance that already covers dogs and to extend it to cats that roam free.  The township Board of Health says this measure protects the health and safety of both humans and animals, but critics worry it’s a cruel and ineffective way to control the feral cat population.

Joe and Kathy Siciliano of Rosemont care for a colony of five feral cats. They all had been trapped from the wild, neutered, vaccinated, and released back into the neighborhood.  The Sicilianos provide food and shelter as the cats come and go.  “We care for them, watch out for them, we monitor them so we know that they’re healthy, and they’re well cared for cats,” Joe said.

What this family believes is the most humane way to control their community’s cat population might soon be illegal with an amended ordinance on the table for Radnor Township banning free-roaming cats.  It’s a measure supported whole-heartedly by the Sicilianos’ neighbor at the township’s Public Health Subcommittee meeting.  “My entire front garden was covered in cat feces, I was unable to weed without coming into contact with cat feces, my front yard smelled of cat feces and cat urine,” Rosement resident Laura Martin said at the meeting.

Committee members explain that, in general, animals at large can pose health risks.  But doctors attending the meeting said cats, specifically, can be exposed to animals, like bats and raccoons, as they roam outside at night that could increase their risk of rabies.  The ordinance states that feeding animals constitutes ownership, which means that cats would need to stay on the homeowner’s property.  The Sicilianos worry what this measure would mean for stray cats, but also pets that might go lost without a collar.  “We won’t necessarily go around the township rounding up cats that are at large, but, if and when a cat is found to be a nuisance and is, in fact, causing a direct problem, that we certainly have a recourse to address that issue, presently we have no recourse,” John Fisher, President of the Board of Commissioners, said.

Fisher told Action News that euthanization is a last resort and, more likely, the cats would be released back into the wild, though maybe not in the populated neighborhood they came from. Owners would have time to claim their lost animal.  Action News is told there will be other opportunities for public comment, likely in the next month.

National 03/22/11 startribune.com: by Jim Williams – Understanding that I’m about to annoy and probably anger some of you, the following information about cats is important reading for anyone interested in birds. It was sent to me by Lisa Moore, editor in chief of The Wildlife Professional.

Cats are not native to North America. They’re actually an invasive species, brought here by settlers from Europe long, long ago. It takes native wildlife many generations to adapt to non-native intruders. And even if birds had adapted to cats, the number of cats in North America is overwhelming when you consider the conflict. Birds – and other native wildlife species – don’t have a chance. The solution is to keep cats indoors, and to stop releasing unwanted cats to fend for themselves. Here is what Ms. Moore has to say:

Anyone who has ever owned an outdoor cat knows that cats kill wildlife. It’s in their nature. Whether hungry or not they’ll stalk and pounce, killing their prey and, often, depositing the corpses on doorsteps like hard-won trophies. Pet owners may throw away the victims with a twinge of guilt, then convince themselves that one little cat can’t possibly make a difference in the balance of nature. It’s time to think again.

“Allowing free-ranging pet and feral cats to roam outside, breed unchecked, kill native wildlife, and spread disease is a crime against nature,” says Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society (TWS). As North America’s largest scientific organization for professionals in wildlife management and conservation, TWS is taking a strong stand in favor of keeping pet cats indoors and removing feral cats from the environment to protect wildlife from cat predation.

As part of this effort, the Spring 2011 issue of the Society’s magazine, The Wildlife Professional, has just released a package of articles titled “In Focus: The Impacts of Free-Roaming Cats.” These articles explore the widespread negative impacts of outdoor, stray, and feral cats on wildlife, habitats, and human and animal health.


•  By some estimates, outdoor cats in the U.S. kill more than one million birds every day on average.  Some studies put the death toll as high as one billion birds per year.    Other studies show that cats kill about twice as many rodents, reptiles, and other small animals.

•  The number of free-roaming cats is on the rise, now between 117 and 157 million in the U.S. While cat numbers are rising, nearly one-third of the more than 800 species of birds in the U.S. are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline.

•   Cats can spread rabies, toxoplasmosis, typhus, plague, and numerous other viral and parasitic disease s to other wildlife and humans. By 2008, the number of rabies cases in cats was approximately four times the number of cases in dogs.

*   Now the most abundant carnivore in North America, domestic cats are not even native to this continent, instead descending from wild cats native to the Middle East. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature labels domestic cats as one of the “world’s worst” invasive species, predators that can devastate native wildlife populations, particularly on islands and in fragmented urban habitats. 

Trap-Neuter-Release is NOT the Answer

Growing numbers of cities and towns across the nation are adopting trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs to manage overabundant populations of stray, feral, and abandoned cats. In outdoor TNR “colonies,” cats receive food, water, and shelter. Many are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to the colony, where they’re free to prey on wildlife at will. Proponents of TNR claim that this approach will eventually reduce the numbers of unclaimed outdoor cats, but research shows otherwise. TNR colonies often become dumping grounds for unwanted pets, and because it’s impossible to sterilize and vaccinate all feral cats in an area, populations may remain stable or rise. In turn these colonies attract other wildlife, such as raccoons and skunks, expanding the threat of disease transmission and human-wildlife conflict.

Since the science is clear about the harm associated with outdoor cats, why do people let cats roam free? The answer lies in human hearts. Much-beloved as pets, cats intrigue, amuse, and captivate, winning champions who go to great lengths (and expense) to advocate on cats’ behalf. Wildlife conservationists who oppose TNR often find themselves unable to budge passionate cat advocates, who lobby persuasively for TNR and against any kind of ordinance to curtail outdoor cat populations. Lawmakers will often go along with the cat advocates, as was the case last year when commissioners in Athens, Georgia, adopted a TNR program against the advice of a host of wildlife conservationists and veterinarians.  

Ironically, as the battle over TNR festers, millions of taxpayer dollars each year go toward government efforts to protect endangered species and migratory birds—many of which fall prey to outdoor cats. Both the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act make it a crime to “take” protected species, so isn’t it also a crime to allow cats free reign to feast?

Wildlife suffer from outdoor cats, but so do the cats themselves. “Cats left outdoors have short life spans and often experience cruel and painful deaths from collisions with vehicles, coyote predation, and disease,” says TWS’ Hutchins. “Misdirected compassion and support of ineffective TNR management by cat advocacy groups is actually resulting in vastly more animal suffering, rather than less. It is high time that our society addresses this significant and growing environmental, human health, and animal welfare problem.”

To help educate policymakers and the public about this issue, TWS has created five Fact Sheets about stray, feral, and outdoor cats. Perhaps by understanding the impacts of outdoor cats, people on all sides of the issue will begin to develop solutions that not only benefit cats, but also the native wildlife we hope to conserve.  Contact: Lisa Moore, Editor-in-Chief, The Wildlife Professional, lmoore@wildlife.org

Florida 03/22/11 ocala.com: The Marion County Health Department has issued a rabies alert for a location in the area of Northeast 70th Street, Northeast 35th Street and N. US Hwy. 441. A raccoon tested positive in that area on March 16. A prior alert to a positive test on a raccoon has been issued Jan. 31.

Georgia 03/23/11 rr.com: Authorities say a coyote wandered onto a runway in Atlanta, delaying flights for a few minutes at the world’s busiest airport until ground crews chased the animal away.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the flights were briefly delayed Tuesday afternoon at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the coyote was spotted on the south side of the airport around 3:30 p.m.  She said an airport vehicle chased the animal into a ravine, and flights resumed after about five minutes.  The airport is ranked the world’s busiest by the industry group Airports Council International.

North Carolina 03/23/11 carrborocitizen.com: A raccoon found in Chapel Hill tested positive for rabies on Tuesday at the State Laboratory of Public Health.  The raccoon was submitted after a resident in the vicinity of Estes Drive Extension and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard saw her dog lunge at it in a ditch.  The dog was currently vaccinated against rabies and will receive a booster shot within five days in accordance with state law. By contrast, unvaccinated animals must be either quarantined for six months or destroyed.  This is the fourth positive rabies test that Orange County has received this year. If any possible exposure to a bat, raccoon or fox is suspected, call Animal Control at 245-2075 or call 911.

North Carolina 03/22/11 nbc17.com: State health officials are warning some residents in Cumberland County of a suspected case of rabies reported in the Haymount area.  A bat was picked up on March 19 by Animal Control inside a home in the 200 block of Stedman Street. The bat was sent to the State Lab for testing, but those results were inconclusive.  Residents in the vicinity should remain alert for sick or abnormal acting wildlife.  Officials say this is the fourth case of rabies reported in Cumberland County since January 1.

Rhode Island 03/23/11 ajc.com: Aggressive coyotes have gotten so bad in one Rhode Island town that it’s hiring a coyote hunter.  Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare said Wednesday that in the past year, coyotes have killed pets, gone onto decks and made people afraid to leave their homes. Most recently, a coyote jumped over a 4-foot fence to attack a dog. Pesare says the town has tried to manage the coyote population, including educating people not to leave out food. But he says now it’s time to start going after the aggressive animals.  Pesare says an experienced coyote hunter has volunteered, and he hopes he’ll start April 5, the day after a town council hearing to approve a zoning change allowing the hunt. The Newport Daily News first reported the proposal.

Feral Hog hunting report from Texas, and a report from regional health researchers on promising advances in the development of a Dengue vaccine.


Wild Boar. Photo by Richard Bartz. Wikipedia Commons.


Texas 02/16/11 chron.com: by Shannon Tompkins – Two good things happen when hunters take feral hogs: an invasive species that does tremendous damage to land, wallets and native wildlife is removed, and the hunter has the foundation of an excellent meal.  Feral hog meat is lean and incredibly tasty; some consider feral pork superior to almost all other wild game.  But getting that pork from pig to plate means having to carefully negotiate a potentially dangerous act: cleaning the hog.

A fair percentage of feral hogs carry viral and bacterial diseases transmissible to humans, including brucellosis, tularemia, salmonellosis, anthrax, leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis.  (They also can carry several diseases — primarily hog cholera, pseudorabies and bovine tuberculosis — that can be transmitted to livestock. This scares the heck out of livestock producers who face tremendous economic losses if feral hogs infect their herds.)

Feral hog damage.

Studies indicate about 10 percent of Texas feral hogs have been exposed to brucellosis. But in some areas of the state, as many as 20-25 percent of those tested were positive for the bacterial disease that can cause flu-like symptoms. Data from state and federal health agencies indicate 20-40 cases of swine brucellosis a year in Texas, with most of them traced back to infections caused by exposure to infected feral hogs.  A recent study looking for brucellosis in Texas feral hogs turned up high infection rates of tularemia, another bacterial disease that, in humans, causes flu-like symptoms. It is sometimes is called “rabbit fever” because rabbits and other rodents have been common vectors of the disease in humans.

The study, conducted through Texas Tech University‘s Institute of Environmental and Human Health, collected and tested about 130 feral hogs from Crosby County near Lubbock and Bell and Coryell counties near Waco.  Half of the animals from Crosby and 15 percent of the pigs from Bell and Coryell showed evidence of current or past tularemia infection.

While tularemia and brucellosis can cause pretty severe illnesses, neither is considered particularly deadly to a healthy adult. But they can be life-threatening for someone with a compromised immune system.  The bacterial and viral diseases carried by feral hogs are usually found in the animal’s blood or other body fluids. (Thorough cooking destroys any disease-causing agents in the meat.)

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these recommendations for hunters handling feral hogs:

  • Avoid all contact with visibly ill animals or those found dead.
  • Use clean, sharp knives for field dressing and butchering.  Wear eye protection and rubber or latex gloves (disposable or reusable) when handling carcasses.
  • Avoid direct contact (bare skin) with fluid or organs from the hog.
  • Burn or bury disposable gloves and inedible parts of the carcass after butchering.
  • Wash hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more and dry hands with a clean cloth.
  • Clean all tools and reusable gloves used in field dressing and butchering with a disinfectant-such as dilute bleach.

National 02/17/11 physorg.com: “We have some very exciting leads on different types of vaccines that are in various stages of clinical trial that hopefully can be implemented with a reasonable period of time,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the infectious diseases division of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Regional health researchers met Thursday in the Puerto Rican capital to discuss progress and treatment of dengue, which is transmitted to humans by the female Aedes mosquitoes.

Dengue causes a severe flu-like illness for most victims that lasts about a week. There are four strains, one of which is a potentially lethal type.  Dengue has reemerged in recent years as a serious public health threat in tropical regions.   It killed 1,167 people in Latin America last year. Puerto Rico recorded the largest outbreak in its history with 21,000 cases last year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. There were 69 cases in the Key West section of the US state of Florida in 2010.  The Philippines recorded more than 730 deaths and Malaysia 134 in 2010, according to figures from the World Health Organization, while India experienced a 20-year high in infections.

Harold Margolis, director of the CDC’s dengue center, said he’s hopeful that a vaccine would soon be available.  “There’s been tremendous progress,” he said. “There are a number of vaccines that are now in clinical trials and there’s now very exciting information there, so we are finally getting (into the last process) but it can take a while.”

Fauci, from the NIH, added: “We need a better understanding of the relationship between the dengue virus and the vector, mainly the mosquito.”  Meanwhile, surveillance is vital.  “The important factor is how good our surveillance is to pick up the disease,” Margolis said. “I think right now we know where it is and now we need to be creative with the new tools and research to try to make sure that doesn’t go any further.”  The infectious diseases division of the NIH spent $45 million in dengue research last year, up from $5 million in 2000.

One theory for the resurgence is global warming, allowing the mosquitoes, and hence dengue fever, to spread.  Drought conditions in some areas also have worsened the outbreak because people have stored water in and near their living areas, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes that harbor the virus.  Authorities in Sri Lanka were so concerned about dengue last year that they introduced heavy fines for people with standing water on their property, and deployed troops to clean up public places.

The three-day summit in Puerto Rico was hosted by NIH, CDC and the Pan American Health Organization.