Michigan woman bitten by Rabid Groundhog; Alaska officials suspect animals at Wolf Country USA are illigal hybrids; New York City man claims Rat infestation exposing residents and pets to Leptospirosis; Lyme Disease expert believes film shown on PBS is deceptive and harmful to public; and Rabies reports from Arizona, Illinois (2), New Jersey, and South Carolina.

Groundhog. Photo by EIC. Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan 06/17/11 washingtonexaminer.com: A groundhog that bit a Southfield woman has tested positive for rabies, authorities said Friday. State health officials notified their counterparts in Oakland County of the positive test, Oakland County officials said in a release. It is the first case of rabies in a groundhog ever recorded in Michigan, according to the release. “As wild animals become more active in warmer weather, the possibility of human contact increases,” county health officer Kathy Forzley said. “Our natural instinct is to befriend a baby animal, pet one that seems friendly or help an injured animal. But stray and wild animals should be avoided.” Groundhogs also are known as woodchucks. They are common in many parts of Michigan and often roam into backyards in Detroit and its suburbs. The animals prefer to remain hidden and typically are seen at dawn and dusk. Officials did not give details on the Southfield woman, when she was bitten or the severity of the bite. Southfield is just north of Detroit.

Alaska 06/16/11 fronteirsman.com: by Andrew Wellner – State law enforcement officials descended on Wolf Country USA Thursday to run tests and confirm that animals there are wolves or wolf hybrids. Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said from the scene that the group of officials there numbered 15 to 20 and included troopers, officers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and state biologists. Peters said a 2002 law outlawed the ownership of wolf hybrids and that anyone who owned one at that time needed to get a permit. An affidavit wildlife trooper Sgt. Katrina Malm filed in court to get the search warrant says that neither of the property’s owners — Werner and Gail Schuster — received any such permit. In fact, the state has never issued one. Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said purebred wolves fall under a different law since they are considered wildlife. No one can own wildlife without a very special and rare permit only issued for people who want the animals for scientific or educational purposes. Schuster said troopers woke him up at 7 a.m. He said there are 40 animals on the property, including puppies. He’s been in business 25 years and said the complaint against him started with someone who has a beef with him over a land dispute and that he disputes the science behind the laws. (For complete article go to http://www.frontiersman.com/articles/2011/06/16/local_news/doc4dfa5f5e6b185225122064.txt )

New York 06/17/11 greenpointnews.com: by McCarton Ackerman – A Jackson Street resident is speaking out after losing his beloved pet to a fatal disease, in the hopes that others will not suffer the same fate. Phillip Montana recently had to euthanize his 4-year-old dog, Simba, after he contracted leptospirosis, a disease transmitted through contact with infected animal urine, usually from rats.

Manhattan Ave & Jackson St

Like much of New York City, Montana’s home base of Jackson Street and Manhattan Avenue suffers from an infestation of rats. Even more worrisome to Montana is the safety of his daughters, since leptospirosis is transmittable from animal-to-human. “Simba shared a bed with my daughter,” said Montana. Montana said that he has filed complaints about the infestation to 311 and the Department of Health over the past two years, but has not received a response. “Every house on Skillman Avenue is complaining now too, this has to be a joint effort within the area.” After Simba’s death, Montana contacted Assemblyman Joe Lentol’s office, and Lentol, a long-time animal advocate vowed to take action. “My district office staff has contacted the NYC Department of Health to ask them to immediately bait the area and to help local homeowners bait in their backyards too,” said Lentol. “The NYC Department of Health must act expeditiously to help protect our pets from leptospirosis and from its spread to humans.” Montana is hopeful that Lentol can help. “It’s the first time I’ve heard about him saying he will go directly to the homeowners, because that’s what needs to be done,” he said. “If they don’t take care of their homes front to back, the rats are going to find something to eat there.” According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, leptospirosis is a rare and severe bacterial infection caused by exposure to several types of the leptospira bacteria, which can be found in fresh water contaminated by animal urine. Although it is transferrable from animals to humans, it is not transmitted from person-to-person contact. (For complete article go to http://www.greenpointnews.com/news/3448/potentially-deadly-infection-hits-jackson-street )

National 06/19/11 baltimoresun.com: by Dan Rodricks – Maryland Public Television is set to air a polemical film about Lyme disease that is built on fear-provoking speculations and assertions while advancing a central message that has been discredited by experts in infectious diseases. Despite being apprised of the film’s serious flaws, MPT has “Under Our Skin: A Health Care Nightmare” on its afternoon schedule for June 26. Other stations throughout the Public Broadcasting Service also have “Under Our Skin: on their schedules; some already aired it. The program was distributed free to stations by the National Educational Telecommunications Association. But one of the leading PBS stations in the country, WGBH in Boston, dropped it this month. “The decision was based on our own, internal editorial concerns that surfaced on closer review of the film,” explained Jeanne Hopkins, a WGBH vice president.

Dr. Philip Baker

One of the likely influences was Philip Baker, a longtime research scientist for the National Institutes of Health and executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation. He believes “Under Our Skin” is deceptive and potentially harmful to the public; he complained about its airing to PBS and to MPT. “A partisan film such as this,” Mr. Baker wrote, “can only undermine public health by encouraging naïve individuals to seek unproven remedies to relieve symptoms that, though deserving of appropriate medical treatment and care, may well have nothing to do with Lyme disease.” (To read Dr. Baker’s complete review go to http://www.aldf.com/Under_Our_Skin.shtml )           (For complete article go to http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-rodricks-lyme-20110618,0,5503947.column )

Arizona 06/17/11 verdenews.com: by Steve Ayers – The Arizona Game and Fish Department has reported three separate rabid skunk attacks on humans over the weekend. All three attacks were in the Granite Bain area near Prescott. However, Jeff Pebworht, wildlife programs manager with the AGFD Kingman office warns that summertime is when rabies incidents escalate statewide. “It’s a combination of factors,” says Pebworth, “Rabies is a little more prevalent in the animal population during the summer months, there also more young skunks out at the time and there are more people out in the woods making the likelihood of contact higher.” Typically most cases of rabid animals involve skunks and to a lesser degree bats and foxes. AGFD Public Information Officer Zen Mocarski warns that skunks are nocturnal animals and any seen during the day approaching humans should be assumed to have rabies and to be avoided. Game and Fish also reminds people recreating in the woods to avoid all contact with wild animals and to keep their pets on a leash to minimize contact with wild animals “Keep in mind that skunks are also prone to take up residence in your neighborhood. You don’t have to be in the woods to come in contact with a rabid animal,” says Pebworth. Anyone encountering an animal exhibiting unusual behavior should contact the AGFD at 800-352-0700 of the Verde Ranger Station, (928) 567-4121.

Illinois 06/17/11 pantagraph.com: A bat found outside of a Bloomington home is McLean County’s first rabies positive bat in 2011. Last year, McLean County had 10 bats test positive for rabies.

Illinois 06/17/11 patch.com: by Amie Schaenzer – The first rabid bat of the year was reported this past week in McHenry County. The bat did not have any contact with a human and was found in Woodstock, according to the McHenry County Department of Health press release. McHenry County had the most rabid bats reported among Illinois counties in 2010; several area counties also already have reported rabid bats this year, according to the MCDH. For a rabies fact sheet, visit the Illinois Department of Health’s website.

New Jersey 06/17/11 pressofatlanticcity.com: by Caitlin Dineen – A raccoon found on Walnut Avenue in Northfield earlier this month tested positive for rabies, Atlantic County officials said Friday. The animal was collected June 11. According to officials from the Atlantic County Division of Public Health, the raccoon entered the back yard of a residence and appeared to be lethargic and walking “wobbly.” Animal Control officials removed the raccoon from the location. It is unknown if a dog located in the same yard at the time had any contact with the animal. Officials said the dog is current being vaccinated.

South Carolina 06/17/11 wsoctv.com: A barking dog helped alert a Chester County woman to a potentially dangerous situation in her own yard. “Belle just wouldn’t quit barking, and she went over to the garage and went crazy,” said Beth Wooten, who lives on Charity Road in the Lowrys community. Her dog was staring down a red fox that was sitting in her detached garage. “At first, I thought how pretty he was because he was bright red,” Wooten said. “Then a couple of seconds later I realized, he shouldn’t be here.” It was the middle of the afternoon last week when Wooten and her husband, Sam, found the fox. She said she knew it was sick. “It looked glassy-eyed and its mouth was half open. He had lost a lot of hair and was real thin,” she said. Her husband shot the fox with a pistol and they took it to their veterinarian in nearby McConnells. They were concerned about Belle because she had been close to the fox. Two days later, Department of Health and Environmental Control tests showed the fox was rabid. Eyewitness News called DHEC to ask about rabies cases this year. So far in 2011, 36 wild animals have tested positive for rabies statewide, and they have mostly been foxes. York County has had four. There were 106 rabies cases in wild animals in 2010 for the entire year, and 152 in 2009.

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