National 04/25/11 audubon.org: by Alisa Opar – In his fascinating new book, author Carl Zimmer explores the viruses living within and around us. With lively writing and fascinating details—if you put all the viruses of the oceans on a scale, they would equal the weight of 75 million blue whales—it’s a gripping and educational read. The book is available May 1, but you can enjoy a sneak peek below.
Becoming an American: West Nile Virus. Excerpted from A Planet of Viruses, by Carl Zimmer. The University of Chicago Presss, 109 pages.
In the summer of 1999, Tracey McNamara got worried. McNamara was the chief pathologist at the Bronx Zoo. When an animal at the zoo died, it was her job to figure out what killed it. She began to see dead crows on the ground near the zoo, and she wondered if they were being killed by some new virus spreading through the city. If the crows were dying, the zoo’s animals might start to die too. Over Labor Day weekend, her worst fears were realized: three flamingoes died suddenly. So did a pheasant, a bald eagle, and a cormorant. McNamara examined the dead birds and found they had all suffered bleeding in their brains. Their symptoms suggested that they had been killed by the same pathogen. But McNamara could not figure out what pathogen was responsible, so she sent tissue samples to government laboratories. The government scientists ran test after test for the various pathogens that might be responsible. For weeks, the tests kept coming up negative.
Meanwhile, doctors in Queens were seeing a worrying number of cases of encephalitis—an inflammation of the brain. The entire city of New York normally only sees nine cases a year, but in August 1999, doctors in Queens found eight cases in one weekend. As the summer waned, more cases came to light. Some patients suffered fevers so dire that they became paralyzed, and by September nine had died. Initial tests pointed to a viral disease called Saint Louis encephalitis, but later tests failed to match the results. As doctors struggled to make sense of the human outbreak, McNamara was finally getting the answer to her own mystery. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa managed to grow viruses from the bird tissue samples she had sent them from the zoo. They bore a resemblance to the Saint Louis encephalitis virus. McNamara wondered now if both humans and birds were succumbing to the same pathogen. She convinced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze the genetic material in the viruses. On September 22, the CDC researchers were stunned to find that the birds were not killed by Saint Louis encephalitis. Instead, the culprit was a pathogen called West Nile virus, which infects birds as well as people in parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa. No one had imagined that the Bronx Zoo birds were dying of West Nile virus, because it had never been seen in a bird in the Western Hemisphere before. Public health workers puzzling over the human cases of
encephalitis decided it was time to broaden their search as well. Two teams—one at the CDC and another led by Ian Lipkin, who was then at the University of California, Irvine—isolated the genetic material from the human viruses. It was the same virus that was killing birds: West Nile. And once again, it took researchers by surprise. No human in North or South America had ever suffered from it before. (For complete review go to http://magblog.audubon.org/book-excerpt-planet-viruses-carl-zimmer )
Global May 2011 cdc.gov: The results of a recent study published in the May 2011 issue of CDC-EID found a dramatic increase in the number of hospitalizations for patients with dengue fever in the United States. This increase is not surprising considering that 1) the number of cases in disease-endemic regions has increased in recent years, and 2) a substantial number of travelers annually enter the United States from the tropics and subtropics. Although infrequent, severe consequences of dengue infection may occur in returning travelers. As individual travelers increasingly make multiple visits to dengue-endemic areas, the risk for severe dengue infections may similarly increase. A survey of 219 travelers who received treatment for dengue in Europe showed that 23 (11%) had severe clinical manifestations, including internal hemorrhage, plasma leakage, shock, and marked thrombocytopenia. We were unable to ascertain whether mosquito-borne hemorrhagic fever (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, code 065.4) also increased because the code appears quite infrequently, making statistical inferences unreliable. We also attempted to use deaths as a marker for disease severity, but we could not detect an increase in disease severity in our analysis because number of deaths was insufficient to accurately estimate a mortality rate. Dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever have been described as potential public health threats for residents of the US mainland. Despite the proximity of circulating dengue virus to the continental United States and the spread of the vector mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus) to at least 26 states, autochthonous cases in the continental United States have been relatively rare until the recent Floridaoutbreak. The increase in reported cases that we have documented highlights a potential risk for dengue spread within the United States. Although
dengue fever was previously classified as reportable in some states, it did not become a reportable illness at the national level until 2010. Thus, some time is required before cases reported to public health departments can be used to establish reliable statistical estimates of national trends. Furthermore, the number of cases may not be linked to other relevant clinical data. The major limitation to our study is that we used administrative data, and thus we did not have access to laboratory data or patients’ travel histories. In addition, milder cases treated on an outpatient basis were not captured. Nevertheless, our results indicate that the decision to make dengue fever a reportable disease in the United States was warranted and that increased vigilance focused on these new surveillance data is needed. In addition, administrative data, as we describe here, can be used to estimate the effects and severity of illness attributable to dengue.
Dr Judy A. Streit is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she an infectious disease specialist and the director of the travel medicine clinic. Her research interests include tropical medicine and related phenomena.
Montana04/25/11 kxnet.com: Park County health officials say a 46-year-old
Livingston-area woman has died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Coroner Al Jenkins tells the Livingston Enterprise that Hillary Johnson died on April 8 while she was being transported to a Billings hospital. Johnson had visited Park Clinic on April 7 with symptoms including a high fever, muscle fatigue and an extreme headache. She checked into the emergency room the next day also suffering from shortness of breath and extreme congestion. Hantavirus can be contracted through inhaling the droppings or urine of deer mice or touching the droppings or urine and then touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth.
Connecticut 04/25/11 courant.com: by Hillary Federico – Old Lyme – A man was attacked by a coyote while mowing his lawn Sunday, but was able to drive himself to a local clinic, according to a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection. The victim, who lives on Tantummaheag Road, was not seriously injured. He received a few cuts and scratches, said Dennis Schain, DEP spokesman. “There is a certain chance [that the coyote may have been rabid]. This is really the first instance of a coyote attacking a person since I’ve been here,” Schain said. “It is highly unusual.” Schain said there has not been a coyote attack on a human within Connecticut since 2006, when a coyote attacked two men in Washington. One of the men was jogging when he was attacked but was not seriously injured. The second man was attacked by the same coyote later in the day while walking his dog. He, too, was not seriously injured. “It turns out that the coyote did have rabies and was [killed],” Schain said. Local police alerted neighbors of the attack and warned them to take precautions. The risk of a coyote attacking a person is extremely low, though Schain noted the risk can increase if coyotes are intentionally fed. If this is the case, the animal begins to associate people with food.
Alabama 04/25/11 gadsdentimes.com: Two dogs in the Coates Bend area have been quarantined after they fought with a raccoon that tested positive for rabies, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Dr. Dee W. Jones, state public health veterinarian, in a press release said the raccoon was killed April 19, and that this is the first laboratory-confirmed case of animal rabies in Etowah County this year. He said the dogs were quarantined according to state regulations for rabies observation. For more information, contact the Alabama Department of Public Health, Bureau of Communicable Disease, Division of Epidemiology, at 1-800-677-0939, or the Etowah County Health Department at 256-547-6311.
Indiana 04/26/11 nwitimes.com: by Vanessa Renderman – A St. John family is mourning the loss of a pet that was snatched from its backyard by a pack of coyotes Sunday night. John Melendez, who lives in the Renaissance subdivision, said he wants residents to be aware of the threat the predators pose. “These things aren’t only a nuisance but are quite detrimental to the area,” he said. The attack happened about 11 p.m. Sunday, when the family let two of its miniature pinschers outside in the 9100 block of West 96th Place. One ran back into the garage, acting strangely. There was loud yelping and snarling. When John’s wife, Debbie Melendez, checked on the commotion, she saw what she described as a pack of wolves in possession of the dog, St. John Animal Control Officer Rick Conaway said. “There are no wolves in Northwest Indiana,” Conaway said. “They’re coyotes.” John Melendez said that when his wife approached the pack, they began growling at her. The animals were the size of German shepherds. The miniature pinscher’s disappearance and presumed death adds to the grief the family already was going through, after having to euthanize another pet dog Wednesday, John Melendez said. Conaway said the Sunday incident is the second of its type to happen in town since 2009, although the dog in the first incident later was found alive. He cautioned that pets less than 25 pounds should not be left unattended at any time of day. Coyotes hunt around the clock and feed on squirrels, raccoons, rabbits and other small animals. “A coyote will eat anything from a grasshopper to a groundhog,” he said. The subdivision where Sunday’s incident happened is near Clark Middle School — where the mascot is a coyote — and near a large undeveloped area.
Oklahoma 04/25/11 sequoyahcountytimes.com: by Dianna F. Dandridge – Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Department last week reported being called to a residence west of Sallisaw where a skunk had attacked a dog. Deputies destroyed the skunk and sent the remains to the Oklahoma Public Health Laboratory for analysis. The dog was placed in quarantine. Cox said that the incidence of rabies in Sequoyah County has traditionally been extremely low, but that Sebastian County, Ark., is already seeing a number of cases.
South Carolina04/25/11 thetandd.com: by Beth Richardson – Over the past decade and longer, coyotes have migrated into South Carolina from western states. Don’t worry; the coyotes did not jump over Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. The coyote is not native to the southeastern United States. Coyotes are meat eaters and will eat anything that is easy to catch. Research at the Savannah River Site clearly shows that one of the coyote’s favorite meals is the fawn. The coyote population and fawn depredation have reached a point where it has affected the number of deer allowed to be shot on the property. So far, research on other animals has not been completed, but one may be able to carry this research to other animals, thus, turkey, rabbits, and other small animal populations may be affected by the coyotes. There is an answer to the problem and the answer has worked in years past. The answer is … are you ready???? WOMEN! Yeah, I know, you did not see that coming, but keep reading.
Back in the 19th and early 20th century, women wore bird plumes in their hats. In fact, some plumes were in such demand that certain populations of bird species were driven close to extinction if not to extinction. It was the women’s fashion world that made it chic to wear beautiful plumes in their hats. This made the birds valuable; this meant that the hunters of these birds made enough money to warrant their catching/killing the birds to retrieve the plumes. Ergo, this fashion, because of women, created a supply and demand. The demand was so great that some of these birds did not make it, such as the Carolina parakeet. So, the plan is, if we can get the women fashion designers of New York and Paris to design the new accessories (the coyote tail cap, scarf, wrap and belt) and get it sold to the “in crowd” as an environmental statement of protecting native animals and fauna against non-native species, then there would be a value to the coyote. That value would be high enough whereby people could make a living off of trapping and shooting coyotes; thus, decimating the coyote population where it is not native. Beth Richardson is an agent with the Clemson Extension Service in Orangeburg County.
West Virginia 04/2/11 newstribune.info: by Liz Beavers – A recent rabies case has been confirmed in the Painter Hollow Road area near Fort Ashby, according to the Mineral County Health Department. The raccoon submitted tested positive for rabies. For further information, or to report any suspicious animals, call the health department at 304-788-1321.