TEXAS wardens shoot BOBCAT in residential area ~ OREGON House votes to authorize killing of two ranch-raiding WOLVES ~ TEXAS city hires private contractor to deal with COYOTE issue ~ RABIES reports from ARKANSAS, FLORIDA, & SOUTH CAROLINA ~ GLOBAL: WHO calls for publication of new H5N1 BIRD FLU VIRUS studies ~ TRAVEL WARNINGS: Health Minister of BRAZIL warns Rio facing DENGUE epidemic as Carnival frenzy begins.

Bobcat. Photo by Maine Wildlife Park, Maine.gov.

Texas 02/19/12 elpasotimes.com: by Hayley Kappes – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens shot and killed a bobcat just before 6 p.m. Saturday that they said was behaving erratically in a Central El Paso backyard. Game Warden Ray Spears said initial reports stated a mountain lion was in a backyard near Raynolds and Bataan, but it was a bobcat. The animal was not afraid of humans and was behaving as if it were sick, which is a concern since bobcats are rabies carriers, Spears said. “It’s not something that could have been trapped or tranquilized,” Spears said. “When we can tranquilize or trap a wild animal, we try to do that, but it displayed unnatural behavior. It wasn’t scared of humans. Sometimes when they get sick, they’re not scared of humans.” Animal control officials will test the carcass for rabies. It’s not unusual for wild animals seeking food and water to wander into the city during a drought, Spears said. Bobcat sightings near Austin High School were reported in June, and game wardens in May shot and killed a mountain lion in Downtown El Paso.

Oregon 02/18/12 eastoregonian.com: The Oregon House voted Friday to allow state officials to kill two wolves that have been blamed for killing livestock, a priority for ranchers that is opposed by conservation groups. The legislation is an attempt to resolve a potential conflict between Oregon’s wolf management plan and the state Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Court of Appeals last year temporarily blocked the state from carrying out a kill order on two wolves from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon. Judges ruled that conservation groups had a good chance of succeeding with a legal claim that state protections for endangered species overruled the wolf management plan, which allows wolves to be killed to reduce livestock attacks. The House approved the measure 42-15, sending it to the Senate. – For complete article go to http://www.eastoregonian.com/free/house-votes-two-wolves-can-be-killed/article_c870a592-59ed-11e1-972c-001871e3ce6c.html

Texas 02/16/12 Bryan, Brazos County: Excerpts – “Coyotes are continuing to show up around the city of Bryan. We’ve told you about the animals attacking small pets and even killing some, but now there are reports that size may not matter for the predatory animals.” “The city of Bryan recently hired Texas Agrilife to help control the Coyote issue. The city is asking residents to put garbage in covered containers and do not leave food out for pets. The city has also provided a pamphlet for residents to educate them about coyotes.”  With Agri-Life Tips on Suburban Coyotes. See http://www.kbtx.com/home/headlines/139482828.html

Arkansas 02/17/12 Valley Springs, Boone County: A skunk is the fourth animal to test positive for rabies in the county this year. See http://www.ky3.com/news/ky3-fourth-confirmed-rabies-case-has-boone-county-ar-residents-proactive-with-pets-20120217,0,325092.story

Florida 02/17/12 Fountain, Bay County: A raccoon killed by a dog near the intersection of Sweetwater Branch and Nonawood roads is the second animal to test positive for rabies in the county this year. See http://www.newsherald.com/articles/new-100487-rabies-alert.html

South Carolina 02/17/12 Columbia, Richland County: Two individuals were attacked by foxes yesterday in separate incidents near the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center. Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health said, “Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” Ferguson adds, “About 400 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal.” See http://www.midlandsconnect.com/news/story.aspx?id=720926#.Tz8mH7Q17WC

Global 02/18/12 usnews.com: Research on a mutated, more contagious form of the bird flu virus can be published in full, the World Health Organization announced Friday, despite concerns that bioterrorists could use the information to start a pandemic. The decision came during a special meeting of 22 bird flu experts in Geneva that was convened by the WHO to discuss the “urgent issues” that have swirled around possible publication of the two bird flu studies since last November, The New York Times reported Saturday. Most of those at the meeting felt that any theoretical terrorist risk was outweighed by the “real and present danger” of similar flu virus mutations occurring naturally in the wild, and by the need for the scientific community to share information that could help identify exactly when the virus might be developing the ability to spread more easily, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Times. Fauci represented the United States at the meeting. “The group consensus was that it was much more important to get this information to scientists in an easy way to allow them to work on the problem for the good of public health,” Fauci said. “It was not unanimous, but a very strong consensus.” However, Fauci added, the United States was not part of that consensus. U.S. bio-security chiefs had urged last November that critical specifics of the papers remain unpublished.

Although the bird flu virus, known as H5N1, rarely infects people, it appears to be highly lethal when it does. Of about 600 known cases, more than half have been fatal. If the virus were able to spread more easily from birds to humans, experts have estimated that millions of people could die after being infected. The two studies at the center of the debate were to be published in the journals Science and Nature late last year. The papers, which were funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, describe how the H5N1 virus could mutate relatively easily into a strain that could spread rapidly among humans. The research was done by scientists at the University of Wisconsin and in the Netherlands. The editors of both journals said they plan to publish the papers in full at a future date. “Discussions at the WHO meeting made it clear how ineffective redaction and restricted distribution would be for the Nature paper. It also underlined how beneficial publication of the full paper could be. So, that is how we intend to proceed,” Dr. Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, said in a statement. “As was expressed at the WHO meeting, there is a need first to explore how best to communicate the issues of publication to a concerned public, and to review safety assurance of labs who would act on this publication. I fully support the WHO’s further efforts in this regard.”

Speaking at a scientific meeting in Vancouver, Science editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts had this to say about the WHO decision: “So, my reading is that both Nature and Science are to wait until we get some further information from the WHO and other authorities of when, in fact, we are to publish the full manuscript.” Before the two studies can be published, the experts at the WHO meeting said that security assessments must be made, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Another meeting on the remaining issues will be held at a future date, the WHO said in a statement. The scientists behind the research had agreed on Jan. 20 to honor a 60-day moratorium on further studies, the Herald reported, but that deadline will now be extended for an unspecified time to allow for a wider examination of the risks and for public discussion. For more on how the bird flu virus might be able to infect humans, visit the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Travel Warnings:

Brazil 02/17/12 google.com: Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilla on Thursday warned that Rio de Janeiro faced a major dengue epidemic, although he said the virus strain prevalent was not fatal. “I believe that Rio could this year face one of the worst dengue epidemics in its history, in terms of number of cases,” he said in a television interview. Padilla said the dengue virus strain prevalent in Rio was not the most serious and was not fatal. The official Agencia Brasil said since the start of the year, 3,499 dengue cases have been recorded in Rio, compared with 2,322 last year, but none were fatal. The government said that nationally cases dropped 62 percent this year to 40,486. Dengue affects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, resulting in fever, muscle and joint ache. But it can also be fatal, developing into hemorrhagic fever and shock syndrome, which is characterized by bleeding and a loss of blood pressure. The news comes as Carnival frenzy sweeps Brazil and the South American powerhouse prepares for a week of sizzling samba dancing, glittering parades and unabashed merry-making in Rio and other cities.

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