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.

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