New study IDs BIRDS that carry LYME DISEASE bacteria in CALIFORNIA ~ CHIKUNGUNYA update ~ ANNOUNCEMENT: GARC offers RABIES Educator Certificate

Golden-crowned sparrow. Photo by Dick Daniels. Wikimedia-Commons.

Golden-crowned sparrow. Photo by Dick Daniels. Wikimedia-Commons.

California 02/25/15 by Sarah Yang – Birds are more important than previously recognized as hosts for Lyme disease-causing bacteria in California, according to a new study led by UC Berkeley researchers. The findings, published today (Wednesday, Feb. 25) in the journal PLOS ONE, shine a light on an important new reservoir in the western United States for the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, responsible for Lyme disease. Wood rats, western gray squirrels and other small mammals have been identified in previous studies as wildlife hosts of the Lyme disease spirochete bacterium in California, but fewer studies have looked at the role of birds as reservoirs.

Dark-eyed Junco. PD

Dark-eyed Junco. PD

“The role of birds in the maintenance of Lyme disease bacteria in California is poorly understood,” said study lead author Erica Newman, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student in the Energy and Resources Group and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “This is the most extensive study of the role of birds in Lyme disease ecology in the western United States, and the first to consider the diversity of bird species, their behaviors and their habitats in identifying which birds are truly the most important as carriers.” Moreover, the birds in the study that were found to be important hosts of Lyme disease bacteria, such as American robins, dark-eyed juncos and golden-crowned sparrows, are coincidentally ones that are commonly found in suburban environments. – For complete article see


index445Global 03/01/15 by Robert Herriman – The chikungunya epidemic in the Western hemisphere has increased by 3,000 cases during the past week with the new tally at 1,247,000 since the first autochthonous cases were reported on the Caribbean island of St. Martin in December 2013, 183 fatalities have been reported. Countries reporting an largest increase in cases include Puerto Rico (1,700) and El Salvador (1,383). The Dominican Republic and Colombia continue to have reported the most cumulative cases to date with 539,183 and 177,187 cases, respectively. In 2015 to date, the United States has seen 43 imported chikungunya cases from 13 states as of Feb. 24. During 2015, no locally-transmitted cases have been reported from U.S. states. In the Pacific, the French Polynesia outbreak is at more than 69,000 estimated cases since 10 October 2014, as of 25 January 2015. 728 hospitalizations, 48 severe cases, 9 fatal cases have been documented. Officials say the outbreak is decreasing. Elsewhere in the Pacific Islands, Samoa has reported 4,431 cases since 21 July 2014 as the outbreak winds down. Chikungunya outbreaks are increasing in New Caledonia (50 cases), the Cook Islands (83) and Kiribati (36). Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It can cause high fever, join and muscle pain, and headache. Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the joint pain may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection, nor any vaccine to prevent it. Pending the development of a new vaccine, the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites. – See

Author’s Note: The CDC confirmed more than 2,340 cases of Chikungunya fever imported to the United States last year, and 11 locally transmitted cases last year in Florda. – See TEXAS county preparing for CHIKUNGUNYA outbreak posted on this blog January 19, 2015.


garcThe Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) is pleased to announce the launch of the first of its online education programs, the Rabies Educator Certificate (REC). This is a free web-based course for individuals such as community educators and health workers who would like to learn about rabies and how to teach others to prevent rabies and reduce deaths in their communities. The REC has been developed to help meet the need to effectively disseminate accurate, life-saving information to at-risk communities.

The course is open to anyone but aimed specifically at people who work regularly in these communities, and who are in a position to address community education on rabies. These people may be health/veterinary/community personnel who regularly visit communities, or it may be key people within the communities themselves who want to do something about rabies education.

This online course has five modules:

  • What is rabies and how do people and animals get the disease?
  • How to avoid dog bites and prevent rabies
  • Caring for animals
  • Understanding the role of a community educator in preventing dog bites and rabies
  • Communicating with people

Each module contains specific and clear information that should be applicable to all situations, regardless of geographical location and circumstances.

Participants can access the course at It is self-paced, so participants can complete it in their own time, although it should take between four and seven hours in total depending on previous knowledge and experience. For those with slow or intermittent internet access, the whole course can be downloaded and studied offline. On passing a final online assessment, participants receive a certificate of achievement and should be ready to provide life saving information to their target communities.

This is the first of GARC’s new online courses, and there are plans to provide it in other languages besides English by the end of the year.  We look forward to hearing the feedback of stakeholders and participants: please join the course at and share this information with your networks. GARC is grateful to Crucell for its generous support for the development of this course. For queries or more information, please contact us here – See more at:

Author’s Note: I asked GARC: “Will the new on-line Rabies course also cover feral cat colonies and the rabies threat they pose to local communities? You specifically mention dogs, but not cats.”

GARC’s response: ” The REC course focuses primarily on canine rabies seeing as 90% of rabies deaths in developing countries are associated with dog bite cases. The REC course does however mention the fact that any warm blooded mammal is susceptible to the disease and that any animal bite case should be treated as a potential exposure. We will be revising the course contents annually and I have noted that this is a potential focus point once we revise. Thank you for the valuable feedback. Kind regards, Andre Coetzer, Course Facilitator, GARC Education Program”

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