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

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