BIOTERRORBIBLE.COM: In the aftermath of man-made bio-terror generated pandemic, the government and media will be feeding the public any number of different scapegoats allegedly responsible for the pandemic that will likely kill millions.

While some scapegoats (see below) are indeed plausible, it is much more likely that the live pathogens or agents responsible for the pandemic will likely be dispersed via A) chemtrails by government airplanes or drones, B) by the U.S. Postal Service via Tide detergent samples, C) by the government and medical establishment via tainted vaccines, or by D) the portable petri dish commonly known as the Trojan condom.

Bio-Terror Scapegoats: Africa, Agriculture (Food & Animals), Airports & Air Travel, Al Qaeda, Bio Labs, Bio-Terrorism Is Easy, Bio-Terrorists (Bio-Hackers), Black Market, Bugs & Insects, Censorship / Lack Thereof, Domestic Terrorists, Exotic Animals (Zoonosis), Government Ineptitude, Mail-Order DNA, Mexico, Missile Shield Failure, Mutation, Natural Disaster, No Clinical Trials (Vaccines), and The Monkeys.

Title: Zoonosis 
Date: 2012
Source: Wikipedia

Abstract:  A zoonosis or zoonose is any infectious disease that can be transmitted between species (in some instances, by a vector) from animals to humans or from humans to animals (the latter is sometimes called reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis). In a study of 1415 pathogens known to affect humans, 61% were zoonotic. The emergence of a pathogen into a new host species is called disease invasion. The emerging interdisciplinary field of conservation medicine, which integrates human and veterinary medicine, and environmental sciences, is largely concerned with zoonoses (Wikipedia, 2012)

Title: Leap From Animals To Humans: Pets From The Wild Can Pose Health Risks
June 15, 2003

Abstract: It appeared at first we'd dodged the bullet. Now it's not so clear. Monkeypox, a close cousin to the smallpox virus, unexpectedly appeared this month in the Midwest, far from its natural home in the rain forests of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. For the last couple of decades, monkeypox in Africa has been an elusive threat. It has erupted in Congolese villages after someone has become infected through killing, skinning and eating a rat, squirrel or monkey. Sometimes the disease has been passed on to the victim's family or fellow villagers and sometimes it hasn't. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials have been telling us that monkeypox isn't a very infectious disease. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.

To understand why, we have to look at the biology of the disease. Unlike smallpox, monkeypox isn't a human specialist. It's an animal disease, and no one is sure what range of animals it infects. It kills monkeys, hence the name. Someone once found a dead squirrel on a Congo highway with suspicious-looking lesions on its skin. It turned out to have died of monkeypox, so some scientists decided that the disease is more a rodent disease than a primate disease. Apparently the disease infects giant Gambian rats, and now we know that prairie dogs, frequent victims of plague and tularemia, also can die from African monkeypox.

What has emerged from the remarkably rapid and effective investigation into the Midwest monkeypox outbreak is that African rodents, unsurprisingly, are the source of the disease. It appears that one giant Gambian rat, infected with monkeypox and housed with prairie dogs in a pet store, transmitted the disease to the prairie dogs, which were sold and swapped across several states.

Up to 68 people as of Friday had been infected. In the great bulk of those cases, the affected people appeared to have had direct contact with a sick pet. What doctors are more concerned about is person-to-person transmission, which indicates a more virulent strain, one better adapted to humans. At least three possible cases of monkeypox have now been found in people not exposed to animals. In Congo, where the death rate is up to 10%, monkeypox often spreads from person to person — in part, public health officials say, because of primitive conditions.

But there's more to it than that. In the Congo province of Kasai-Oriental, where monkeypox occasionally breaks out, people inhabit fairly large, airy huts within a family compound, which is usually some distance from other compounds. These are not such terrible conditions for keeping the disease in check. We can't automatically assume, as some health experts contend, that it is better sanitation and living conditions in America that are keeping monkeypox from being so deadly here. Several other factors, hidden and not so hidden, are also at work.

As Peter Jahrling, the army's chief virologist, explains it, monkeypox, like other diseases, is not a single strain; there are lots of variants. Like all forms of life composed of DNA or RNA, the monkeypox virus is subject to evolution, mutation, the force of natural selection. Whatever afflicted that Gambian rat, it probably wasn't a single pure strain but a swarm of variants. And some of those strains possessed the ability to transmit from animals to people. We don't know yet whether some of the strains also were capable of spreading from human to human, but that would not be surprising given what we know about the disease in Africa. It is the inevitable logic of natural selection at work: Those variants that are best at transmitting to people will be the ones that make the jump from animal to human. Then, among those strains, those even better at transmitting might jump again from human to human. This is a sort of winnowing-out process, where the best jumpers win.

In one well-documented outbreak in Congo, the chain of person-to-person monkeypox transmission was seven links long. If it hadn't stopped moving, whether through medical intervention or because it ran out of hosts in the village, the disease would have become better and better at spreading among people. It would have become a more "humanized" disease.

It would have looked more and more like smallpox.

What would make a monkeypox germ a good jumper? Putting it simply, the virus has to do something to its host so it can get out of one human body and into the next. Some viruses, like measles, cause sneezing. Polio is passed in the stool and spread through the process unattractively known as "fecal/oral contact." Monkeypox, like smallpox, has two such methods. As evolutionary biologist Paul W. Ewald, author of the well-known "Plague Time," puts it, smallpox and monkeypox are "sit-and-wait pathogens": Viral particles shed from the pox wait outside the body for the next host to happen by. These particles can last a long time in the external environment. Smallpox scabs kept on a shelf in a researcher's office contained live, infectious virus after 13 years!

But smallpox, a highly evolved human disease, has another property that monkeypox sometimes has and sometimes hasn't. This is the capacity to form sores or lesions in the throat. Such a sore, called an enanthema, is one of the chief ways smallpox spreads, particularly since these sores are formed before the patient gets terribly sick. You can walk around coughing and sneezing, infecting many people, before the disease knocks you off your feet. (This is why biodefense experts fear the so-called suicide cougher scenario for a smallpox attack.)

Only one person in this monkeypox outbreak appeared, at this writing, to have suffered from such enanthema. A young man in Indiana had to be taken to the emergency room because of sores in his throat. In Wisconsin, said epidemiologist Charles Edmiston, no enanthema had been found. This suggests that the particle salad of monkeypox strains brought over (apparently) by the giant Gambian rat may not have been particularly virulent at the outset, but we can't be certain that will remain true. If human-to-human transmission is confirmed, it is likely that the disease will gain in virulence and transmissibility as it passes from one person to another.

The precautions taken by health departments in Milwaukee and elsewhere have helped to slow the spread of the disease, and their epidemiological investigations have been admirable. But the story is not over yet, and we should not be complacent.

Even if this outbreak is controlled quickly, the next time someone is foolish enough to pluck a wild African animal out of its natural habitat and ship it to the United States to entertain some animal fancier too jaded for a dog or cat or hamster, the strains might include some variants even better suited to human spread. To keep diseases out of this country, we must remember that it is not just people who transmit deadly human infections. Animals do as well (UCLA, 2003).

Title: Leap From Animals To Humans: Pets From The Wild Can Pose Health Risks.
Date: June 15, 2003

Abstract: It appeared at first we'd dodged the bullet. Now it's not so clear. Monkeypox, a close cousin to the smallpox virus, unexpectedly appeared this month in the Midwest, far from its natural home in the rain forests of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. For the last couple of decades, monkeypox in Africa has been an elusive threat. It has erupted in Congolese villages after someone has become infected through killing, skinning and eating a rat, squirrel or monkey. Sometimes the disease has been passed on to the victim's family or fellow villagers and sometimes it hasn't. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials have been telling us that monkeypox isn't a very infectious disease. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.

To understand why, we have to look at the biology of the disease. Unlike smallpox, monkeypox isn't a human specialist. It's an animal disease, and no one is sure what range of animals it infects. It kills monkeys, hence the name. Someone once found a dead squirrel on a Congo highway with suspicious-looking lesions on its skin. It turned out to have died of monkeypox, so some scientists decided that the disease is more a rodent disease than a primate disease. Apparently the disease infects giant Gambian rats, and now we know that prairie dogs, frequent victims of plague and tularemia, also can die from African monkeypox.

What has emerged from the remarkably rapid and effective investigation into the Midwest monkeypox outbreak is that African rodents, unsurprisingly, are the source of the disease. It appears that one giant Gambian rat, infected with monkeypox and housed with prairie dogs in a pet store, transmitted the disease to the prairie dogs, which were sold and swapped across several states.

Up to 68 people as of Friday had been infected. In the great bulk of those cases, the affected people appeared to have had direct contact with a sick pet. What doctors are more concerned about is person-to-person transmission, which indicates a more virulent strain, one better adapted to humans. At least three possible cases of monkeypox have now been found in people not exposed to animals. In Congo, where the death rate is up to 10%, monkeypox often spreads from person to person — in part, public health officials say, because of primitive conditions.

But there's more to it than that. In the Congo province of Kasai-Oriental, where monkeypox occasionally breaks out, people inhabit fairly large, airy huts within a family compound, which is usually some distance from other compounds. These are not such terrible conditions for keeping the disease in check. We can't automatically assume, as some health experts contend, that it is better sanitation and living conditions in America that are keeping monkeypox from being so deadly here. Several other factors, hidden and not so hidden, are also at work.

As Peter Jahrling, the army's chief virologist, explains it, monkeypox, like other diseases, is not a single strain; there are lots of variants. Like all forms of life composed of DNA or RNA, the monkeypox virus is subject to evolution, mutation, the force of natural selection. Whatever afflicted that Gambian rat, it probably wasn't a single pure strain but a swarm of variants. And some of those strains possessed the ability to transmit from animals to people. We don't know yet whether some of the strains also were capable of spreading from human to human, but that would not be surprising given what we know about the disease in Africa. It is the inevitable logic of natural selection at work: Those variants that are best at transmitting to people will be the ones that make the jump from animal to human. Then, among those strains, those even better at transmitting might jump again from human to human. This is a sort of winnowing-out process, where the best jumpers win.

In one well-documented outbreak in Congo, the chain of person-to-person monkeypox transmission was seven links long. If it hadn't stopped moving, whether through medical intervention or because it ran out of hosts in the village, the disease would have become better and better at spreading among people. It would have become a more "humanized" disease.

It would have looked more and more like smallpox.

What would make a monkeypox germ a good jumper? Putting it simply, the virus has to do something to its host so it can get out of one human body and into the next. Some viruses, like measles, cause sneezing. Polio is passed in the stool and spread through the process unattractively known as "fecal/oral contact." Monkeypox, like smallpox, has two such methods. As evolutionary biologist Paul W. Ewald, author of the well-known "Plague Time," puts it, smallpox and monkeypox are "sit-and-wait pathogens": Viral particles shed from the pox wait outside the body for the next host to happen by. These particles can last a long time in the external environment. Smallpox scabs kept on a shelf in a researcher's office contained live, infectious virus after 13 years!

But smallpox, a highly evolved human disease, has another property that monkeypox sometimes has and sometimes hasn't. This is the capacity to form sores or lesions in the throat. Such a sore, called an enanthema, is one of the chief ways smallpox spreads, particularly since these sores are formed before the patient gets terribly sick. You can walk around coughing and sneezing, infecting many people, before the disease knocks you off your feet. (This is why biodefense experts fear the so-called suicide cougher scenario for a smallpox attack.)

Only one person in this monkeypox outbreak appeared, at this writing, to have suffered from such enanthema. A young man in Indiana had to be taken to the emergency room because of sores in his throat. In Wisconsin, said epidemiologist Charles Edmiston, no enanthema had been found. This suggests that the particle salad of monkeypox strains brought over (apparently) by the giant Gambian rat may not have been particularly virulent at the outset, but we can't be certain that will remain true. If human-to-human transmission is confirmed, it is likely that the disease will gain in virulence and transmissibility as it passes from one person to another.

The precautions taken by health departments in Milwaukee and elsewhere have helped to slow the spread of the disease, and their epidemiological investigations have been admirable. But the story is not over yet, and we should not be complacent.

Even if this outbreak is controlled quickly, the next time someone is foolish enough to pluck a wild African animal out of its natural habitat and ship it to the United States to entertain some animal fancier too jaded for a dog or cat or hamster, the strains might include some variants even better suited to human spread. To keep diseases out of this country, we must remember that it is not just people who transmit deadly human infections. Animals do as well (UCLA, 2003).

Title: Tale Of A Dangerous Rat
Date: June 17, 2003

Abstract: OK, enough already with all the animal viruses. They live over there. And we live over here. And unless all cuddly creatures housing weird viruses decide to don little face masks, there's a good reason for separation.

Everyone likes fuzzy little things. Thanks to animal cartoons and superheroes, Americans grow up anthropomorphizing, reading the most darling of preposterous thoughts into the simple instincts of ordinary animals, who can be grand companions. So it's but one small step for mankind that live, moving critters from the wild are even more exciting than stuffed teddy bears. And in our interaction with them lies a genuine health problem, apparently growing and unmonitored.

Dogs, cats and the like are usually coddled, vaccinated, even bathed in perfume-y stuff that no normal four-legged critter would be caught dead wearing outdoors. That's their price for a roof, free eats and sleeping anywhere. In return, humans may qualify for affection.

The problem comes with so-called exotic pets. They walk the wild, unknowingly housing harmful viruses that cleverly don't kill their host. The viruses jump to humans. Now we've seen the first non-Africa monkeypox in humans. A smallpox cousin, this ugly disease was spread by a platoon of pet shop prairie dogs, cute guys unless mining lawns. The prairie dogs, since sold, resold and traded, caught the virus in an Illinois pet shop from a nearby Gambian rat. Now, you might ask, exactly who needs a giant Gambian pet rat, especially an immigrant from the heart of monkeypox land? No one thought to ask.

Remember ebola? Scary stuff. The fatal hantavirus that hangs in the dust of mice feces? SARS probably came from a civet in China. Lyme disease from ticks. Mosquitoes bite humans and deliver West Nile virus, unknown here just four years ago. Even HIV hopped to humans from monkeys, which are eaten in Africa. And mad cow disease can pass through the food chain's unregulated links. Officials moved swiftly to find humans exposed to monkeypox. But imagine if one sick prairie dog escapes. Not noted for marital fidelity, these social creatures could spread monkeypox nationally because of an exotic rat in an unmonitored business.

Capital's global liquidity is one measure of the world's accelerating connectedness. So are air travel, immigration and now, animal trading. Foreign travel always carries risks; the plague spread to Europe on stowaway rats. Dutch elm disease and fire ants arrived in lumber shipments. The 9/11 terrorists came as immigrants and students.

But with the breadth and pace of trade growing faster than our ability to detect or, indeed, anticipate threats, we must step up vigilance of exotic wildlife arriving on our shores. If you must have a rat, you must prove it healthy — lest the nation's most powerful pets become less the cuddly, benign critters and more the lethal, invisible viruses (UCLA, 2003).

Title: Beyond Cute: Exotic Pets Come Bearing Exotic Germs
Date: June 17, 2003
New York Times

Abstract: Epidemiologists can be such killjoys. Consider, for instance, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, who has been publicly denouncing prairie dogs since 1997. A prairie dog in a burrow is one thing, but a prairie dog in the house makes Dr. Osterholm a bit edgy.

The fact that the United States has exported thousands of prairie dogs to Japan, where they are not found in nature and where people find them adorable, gives Dr. Osterholm a full-blown case of the willies. Japan banned prairie dog imports in March, and the European Union halted them yesterday, but researchers still worry about what havoc may be wrought by the animals that have already been shipped overseas.

Where some people see a cute and cuddly ball of fur, scientists like Dr. Osterholm see a vector: a ball of disease-causing viruses, bacteria, parasites and who knows what other germs. Dr. Osterholm, who is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, said that until recently, his main objection to prairie dogs was that they and their fleas sometimes carried bubonic plague. He had not even thought about monkeypox, the disease brought to the Americas for the first time last month, presumably by a three-pound African rat, which infected its fellow inmates in a pet shop, prairie dogs, which may then have spread the disease to as many as 82 people in five states.

Though Dr. Osterholm had not predicted monkeypox, its arrival did not entirely surprise him. The worldwide trade in so-called exotic pets has done two things that are practically a recipe for spreading exotic diseases. First, the trade has transported animals like giant Gambian rats across oceans and brought them together with species that they would never encounter naturally, like prairie dogs. Not much is known about what microbes those animals might spread to each other, or what the microbes might do inside a new host. Second, the trade has brought people close to animals — and to diseases — they had little or no contact with before.

"It clearly stacks the deck in favor of infectious agents," Dr. Osterholm said, and he rattled off a list of agents that have animal origins and can cause severe illness in people: H.I.V., Ebola virus, a highly virulent form of the bacterium E. coli, the Nipah virus that spread from bats to pigs to people in Malaysia in 1998, and the current epidemic of the respiratory disease SARS.

Like SARS, which has been traced to a previously unknown coronavirus carried by palm civets and badgers in the jam-packed live-animal markets of southern China, the outbreak of monkeypox in the United States is a reminder of how little is known about infectious diseases in wild animals and the threat they may pose to humans.

Dr. Frank Fenner, an expert on pox viruses and other viruses at Australian National University in Canberra, said, "Quite a lot of new viruses have been turning up, all coming out of animal hosts."

He added: "I think we know so little about the viruses of wild animals."

Dr. Fenner said scientists were familiar with hundreds of viruses carried by people and domestic animals, but had much less information about the many viruses that are probably carried by wild animals.

"With all the animals in the wild," he said, "we really know so little about what virus diseases they have unless they get into livestock or humans."

Dr. Fenner suggested that every species of wild animal probably carried its own distinct viruses, many more than are known. Most do not infect people, but the ones that do can lead to nasty surprises.

Monkeypox is not new. It was first identified in monkeys in 1959, but its ability to infect people was not recognized until 1970. The disease is usually milder than smallpox in humans, causing a death rate up to 10 percent in Africa, compared to 30 percent for smallpox. Although the disease was named for monkeys (because it was first found in them), scientists later came to realize that its real host is a rodent. Dr. Fenner said three or four species of African squirrels were thought to be the main hosts, and infections in monkeys and people were considered accidental. Squirrels are commonly eaten in some parts of Africa, and people are probably infected from handling sick animals.

Monkeypox outbreaks in people in Congo were detected in the 1990's, and a 1999 report by the World Health Organization suggested that the disease might have found a foothold when health experts said people no longer needed smallpox vaccinations, which can prevent monkeypox because the vaccine and monkeypox viruses are closely related.

Despite that theory, the health organization did not recommend that smallpox vaccination be resumed in Africa, because H.I.V. rates are high there, and the smallpox vaccine can be quite dangerous for people with H.I.V. or AIDS.

The viruses that cause smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox, because they infect people, are among the best-known members of the pox virus family. But the family has several dozen other members that infect a broad range of animals, causing diseases not found in people, like camelpox, skunkpox, raccoonpox, rabbitpox, mousepox and bird poxes specific to canaries or juncos. Suipoxvirus infects pigs, taterapox infects naked-soled African gerbils, and still another pox virus, thought to have an unknown main host, causes a sickness called Uasin Gishu disease in horses in Africa. Chickenpox, despite its name, is not caused by a pox virus; the microbe that causes it belongs to the herpes family.

Some pox viruses, as far as researchers can tell, infect only a single host. Camelpox, for instance, has been found only in camels. And yet of all the pox viruses, it is the one most closely related to smallpox. Smallpox also has only one natural host, people, which explains why it could be eradicated: since there was no animal host in the wild, once the virus was stamped out in people, it had nowhere else to go.

Cowpox, on the other hand, might be called promiscuous: it infects not only cows, but also people, rodents, cats, elephants, rhinoceroses and okapis. In people, it generally causes a very mild disease, and secretions from people and animals with cowpox were among the earliest substances used to vaccinate people against smallpox.

Scientists do not know why some pox viruses are limited to a single species while others infect a multitude, but Dr. Fenner said the ones with more than one host were likely to be the most enduring.

"If a virus affects only one rare species of animal and that animal becomes extinct, the virus becomes extinct with it," he said. "But if it infects several species of animal it may survive, as cowpox does. We know it occurs in gerbils in Russia and in field mice and voles in England as a natural infection in the wild. And there may be other rodents as well, so it's very unlikely to be wiped out except by a new ice age or something like that."

The most familiar member of the pox virus family is in some ways the most mysterious. Many people assume that vaccinia, the virus used to make smallpox vaccine, is the same virus that causes cowpox and that was first used by Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796 to vaccinate people against smallpox. In fact, vaccinia is not the cowpox virus. It is a distinct species, and scientists do not know where it came from. But in the early days of vaccination, there was no way to store a vaccine, so people were usually vaccinated with secretions taken from other people or animals. Scientists have speculated that such arm-to-arm passage may have created a hybrid of smallpox and cowpox, or perhaps even brought in a type of horsepox that no longer exists in nature.

Researchers say it should be no surprise that a virus capable of infecting multiple rodents in Africa could find a ready host in a rodent here.

And yet even those who ardently oppose exotic pets in principle may succumb to their furry charms. Dr. Osterholm admitted that he gave in to his son's insistence on having an African dwarf hedgehog.

"Everyone had them," Dr. Osterholm said.

But for a public health expert, letting this animal into the house was as bad as smoking. The moment it relieved itself, Dr. Osterholm collected the droppings and whisked them off to his lab to analyze. He found that the hedgehog was carrying three strains of salmonella bacteria. He let his son keep the pet, but imposed extensive hand-washing requirements any time a family member touched it.

"It was no fun at all," Dr. Osterholm said (New York Times, 2003).

Title: Scientists Search For Human Hand Behind Outbreak Of Jungle Virus
Date: June 19, 2003

Abstract: Thick jungle vegetation has taken over the concrete pens that once held thousands of pigs at the Leong Seng Nam farm. Rusting tractors bake in their tracks under a blistering sun. Only the lush mango and jackfruit trees appear unchanged from four years ago, when the farm and most everything on it were abandoned in terrific haste.

At the main gate, a sign bearing the silhouette of a man shooting a trespasser warns that no one should return: "We accept no visitors in view of the outbreak of swine disease."

But an ambitious group of outsiders has come back -- to ground zero of a frightening viral outbreak in 1998 and 1999. The previously unknown "Nipah" virus, named for the Malaysian village where it was first isolated, leapt from beast to man and killed both at a torrid rate. Then it disappeared back into the surrounding forests and limestone cliffs. The virus decimated Malaysia's fast-growing pork industry and killed 40% of the 257 people who caught it. So deadly is Nipah that the U.S. lists it among potential bioterrorism agents.

As governments begin to declare cautious victory over severe acute respiratory syndrome -- a disease that, like HIV, Ebola and Nipah is believed to have jumped from an animal host to humans -- some scientists are turning their attention to a question asked all too infrequently once deadly viral outbreaks have been contained: Where did that come from?

One such group of investigators is digging in at Ipoh, with an unconventional, multidisciplinary approach involving virologists, ecologists, zoologists, botanists and even agronomists familiar with pig-farming techniques.

Organized by the Consortium for Conservation Medicine in Palisades, N.Y., and equipped with a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the team of scientists will test over the next four years a compelling, if complex, theory of Nipah's emergence. It goes like this: The burning of over 12 million acres of virgin forest in Borneo and Sumatra in the fall of 1997 cast an extreme haze over a huge swath of Southeast Asia for months. That haze blocked sunlight, reducing the ability of trees to flower and bear fruit. This caused giant bats to travel great distances in search of sustenance. They settled on fruit trees fertilized with the manure of pigs on huge Malaysian farms cut out of the forests where the so-called flying foxes roost.

Somehow, the theory goes, the bats then passed the virus to the pigs who -- because of physiological and genetic similarities to humans -- amplified its potency and began infecting people in contact with them.

To some conservationists and scientists, there would be a dark poetic justice in a disease passed to man from an animal endangered by man's encroachment on its treetop environment. "In the case of almost every emerging disease, complex human changes to the environment drive emergence," says Dr. Peter Daszak, a parasitologist and executive director of the consortium that organized the study. "Nipah appears to be a case of the bats getting some payback."

The results of the Nipah investigation could be a key to understanding the many variables involved in sudden viral outbreaks.

They could also have implications for environmental policy. If human intervention in nature is shown to have triggered the deadly epidemics, then the arguments for protecting fragile ecology suddenly become much more palpable than the desire to preserve rare landscapes or endangered species.

It's far from certain that man brought on Nipah, or any of the other sudden viral scourges of recent years. And determining conclusively how a virus progresses among different species is extraordinarily difficult.

"There is always a massive knowledge gap in understanding what drives a virus that evolved over thousands of years and co-exists peacefully with one animal to jump and eventually come into contact with man," says Malaysian scientist Dr. Chua Kaw Bing, the first researcher to trace the Nipah virus to enormous endangered fruit bats, known locally as flying foxes.

In the case of SARS, researchers in Hong Kong have identified the civet cat, a relative of the raccoon, as one animal player in the spread of the virus. But they have also found SARS coronavirus antibodies in a Chinese ferret badger and a raccoon, meaning researchers are still a long way from establishing whether the civet is the virus's natural "reservoir" or just one link in a much more complex ecological chain.

Pinning down the animal source of the terrifying Ebola virus has also been difficult. In 1994, the first appearance of Ebola in 15 years occurred in a Swiss researcher on the Ivory Coast. Investigators quick to the scene thought they could trace the virus from chimpanzees dying of the disease to their prey, red colobus monkeys, which also die of the virus. World Health Organization researchers armed with a $250,000 grant undertook an ambitious study to find Ebola's natural host.

But even after collecting thousands of insects, birds and mammals that interact with the monkeys, the Ebola reservoir was as elusive as ever. "After four years, our agencies got fed up and our funding disappeared," says Francois Meslin, the WHO's top expert on diseases acquired from animals.

Determining the role of the flying foxes -- known scientifically as pteropus vampyrus -- will be critical to charting the origins of the Nipah virus. The bats are the world's largest, with the Malayan variety boasting a five-foot wingspan. Local hunters shoot and eat them. In Cambodia, they are prized as aphrodisiacs, and the bats are used as good-luck talismans in Filipino wedding ceremonies.

The bats are also Nipah's most likely natural host, since they have natural antibodies that protect them from the virus. As flying mammals common across the region, they also -- at least in theory -- make a highly mobile carrier of disease that could cross over to human populations.

The scientific team organized by the Consortium for Conservation Medicine, a joint venture between the Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine, the Wildlife Trust and the U.S. government's National Wildlife Health Center, starts with a working theory that the Nipah virus transmitted from bat to pig as a result of the flying foxes' messy eating habits.

After sucking the juice from fruit, they spit out pulp and drop half-eaten fruit to the ground. Scientists believe this is what they did while feeding in trees overhanging the pig pens at the Leong Seng Nam farm and other farms in Ipoh, delivering a lethal dose of virus-laden saliva to voracious hogs.

Pigs can pick up pathogens from a natural host and render them more infectious before passing them on to humans. In the case of Nipah, pigs developed encephalitis and a "one-mile cough" -- so called because their violent hacking could be heard at great distances -- before quickly dying. Men working with the swine then picked up the disease. More than 100 people died in Malaysia. Humans apparently don't infect each other with Nipah, so a massive culling of 1.1 million pigs stopped its spread.

The linchpin of the theory is that virus-carrying flying foxes can migrate great distances -- something that has never been studied due to the nocturnal animal's remote and vast range.

The scientists hope to outfit a handful of flying foxes with solar-powered radio collars that can last four years -- if the bats don't shake the $5,000 devices. Such radio-tracking in Australia has shown that some bats will periodically travel up to 375 miles.

But the Malaysian team first has to catch them. "Very difficult," says Azizi bin Mohammed Yatim, a bat catcher with Malaysia's Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh. On a recent nighttime trip into the jungle, Mr. Azizi and his crew struggled to apprehend even small bats in fishing nets set up around fruit trees. One small cave-dwelling bat the size of a chipmunk let out a series of terrific squeals while biting repeatedly at a handler's welding gloves.

"You can imagine the time we'll have with vampyrus," says Kevin Olival, a 27-year-old working on his Ph.D. at Columbia University. Mr. Olival is on hand to perform sophisticated genetic tracing of the bats. He hopes this will prove that flying foxes migrate over great distances and across water.

Mr. Olival hopes to take "wing punches" from captured flying foxes -- 3-millimeter holes cut from the bat's wing (they grow back). Then, he will use satellite location technology and genetic data extracted from those punches to track the movement of bats from Thailand down through Sumatra. If a "marker" in the DNA sequence of a bat in Malaysia, for instance, matches that of a bat in Sumatra, one can assume the bat populations move and mix -- or that flying foxes are all part of one huge population.

To prove the thesis of an environmental trigger to the Nipah virus, the team must also establish whether the forest fires of 1997 could really have caused atmospheric conditions disruptive enough to so alter the migratory movements of the giant bats.

As the dry, summer haze season approaches in Southeast Asia, another member of the team, 26-year-old Malaysian graduate student Chong Kwai Hoe, will use satellite images to track and map smoke from forest fires. He will then criss-cross Malaysia's ubiquitous oil palm plantations, taking readings on the effect of smoke on the fruit production of palm trees -- a proxy for all species of fruiting trees.

Other scientists will study flying-fox blood and urine -- even the ticks and fleas they carry. Then they will collate and compare what they find with studies under way in Australia of bats bearing the Hendra virus -- another killer closely related to Nipah. They also will go to India to study a recent outbreak of a deadly virus in Uttar Pradesh state similarly thought to have come from fruit bats. That virus responds to the same antibody test as Nipah.

A separate Japanese team, meanwhile, is in Malaysia analyzing pig tissue samples from as far back as 1994. If they find the Nipah virus, the thesis that extreme haze in 1997 ignited the outbreak will have to be reconsidered (UCLA, 2003).

Title: When Animal Germs Infect Humans
Date: June 24, 2003

Abstract: "A Mysterious Disease." "Never Seen in the West." "Doctors Baffled."

A number of such headlines have appeared since West Nile virus surfaced here in the summer of 1999. Sporadic cases of bubonic plague have been reported in New York City and mad cow disease in Britain. The Asian outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome became public in March and, earlier this month, monkeypox announced its foray into the Western Hemisphere - specifically, the U.S. Midwest.

What these diseases have in common is transmission into the human population through contact with animals - a process termed zoonosis.

"Every so often there is a species jump, when an infection - one we've never heard of or never described in the literature - makes a leap from one animal to another," said Dr. Dan Shapiro, a specialist in infectious diseases and an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine, who is writing a book on zoonosis. "If the second animal is human, that can be a problem."

Federal health officials took quick action to stem the spread of monkeypox, banning the sale of domestic prairie dogs as well as six types of rodents imported from Africa - animals sold in response to Americans' taste for exotic pets. Dozens of Midwesterners had fallen ill after handling pet prairie dogs apparently infected when housed near the rodents.

Zoonotic diseases are not a new phenomenon; animals have been known to transmit a long list of illnesses, including rabies, scabies, salmonella, trichinosis, botulism, malaria, measles, yellow fever, hantavirus and a number of strains of both streptococcus and influenza. Even the pandemic of Spanish influenza that killed an estimated 20 million people in 1918 is believed to have originated in swine.

"What is potentially unique about monkeypox, and what has caught people's attention, is that monkeypox has not been introduced to the Western Hemisphere before," said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, visiting professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health.

But experts say it's hard to determine if the number of such diseases crossing the species barrier to humans has been rising in recent years. What is known is that increasing urbanization worldwide, encroachment on previously uninhabited forest and desert land and a mobile human population traversing oceans at jet speed provide ample opportunities for diseases to emerge - or re-emerge, occasionally in more virulent forms - just about anywhere.

"People are increasingly encroaching on to out-of-the-way places," said Dr. Stephen Morse, director of public health preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University. "Deforestation provides more contact with forest creatures. As more land is being given over to agriculture, and there's a higher density of both animals and human beings, that puts them in contact with obscure infections that were sequestered."

And the speed of global travel heightens the potential.

"An animal can, within 24 hours, go from the jungle in the Congo to someone's bedroom in the United States," Kim-Farley said. "You just never saw that before.

"If they had been shipped by sea, they would have either no longer been contagious by the time they arrived, or have died," he said.

Some epidemiologists do believe zoonotic diseases are on the rise, but they say there's no cause for alarm because scientists today are adept at tracing new infections and eager to follow the trail.

"The conditions that favor these transfers into human populations continue to increase," Morse said.

The leap between species can be made a number of ways: by consuming diseased meat, being bitten by mosquitoes or fleas, handling a pet or having contact with animal products like blood, hides, fur or wool, or dairy products, experts say.

Britons were infected with the human version of mad cow disease by eating beef containing the microscopic protein particle that causes the disease. And health officials believe food handlers in China may have become infected with the SARS virus after handling animals at a market that supplied restaurants in Guangdong.

In the United States, the growing popularity of exotic pets led to a chain of monkeypox infection that is believed to have started when the prairie dogs were housed with imported animals that carry the illness. Federal health officials said six types of rodents have been implicated in the monkeypox outbreak in humans: the giant Gambian rat, tree squirrel, rope squirrel, brush-tailed porcupine, striped mouse and dormouse. All African rodents have been banned for sale and import, and it is illegal to release them to the wild.

This is not the first time federal health officials have taken the bold action of banning pets. In 1975, federal officials banned the miniature pet turtles kids used to win at street fairs when it became known they were the source of 14 percent of all human salmonellosis cases in the country.

The same year, officials also banned imported monkeys and other nonhuman primates as pets because they carry serious diseases like tuberculosis.

The problem with zoonotic diseases is two-fold, experts say. Once an animal population harbors a virus, it is virtually impossible to eradicate the disease. That's why public health officials have urged pet owners not to let prairie dogs or rodents free, an action that could create a persistent animal reservoir of monkeypox in this country's wildlife.

The second factor is how efficiently a new disease is transmitted among humans. HIV, for example, is transmitted very efficiently through sex, and its virulence doesn't weaken as it is transmitted time after time (UCLA, 2003).

Title: Death Sought for Animals In Monkeypox Case
Date: July 3, 2003
New York Times

Abstract: Moving to prevent monkeypox from reaching wild animals in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended yesterday that all 850 animals from a contaminated shipment of exotic pets from Africa in April be destroyed, along with all prairie dogs that might have been exposed to them.

The agency warned pet owners not to release any sick or potentially exposed animals into the wild.

Other mammals in homes or pet shops that might have been exposed should be killed or should be quarantined for six weeks and watched for symptoms — fever or cough, cloudy or crusty eyes, swollen lymph nodes or rash, the agency said. Bodies should be burned, not buried or thrown out, and the premises disinfected, it added.

An outbreak of monkeypox tentatively traced to a Gambian giant pouched rat in the shipment has caused 81 confirmed or suspected cases in humans, mostly in the Midwest. Its spread seems to have stopped, and no cases of human-to-human transmission were found. But the disease spreads easily to rodents.

A spokesman for the agency acknowledged that the authorities did not know the whereabouts of many of the estimated 850 animals in an April 9 shipment from Ghana to Texas, nor do they know if any were released.

"That's one of the things we're really worried about," said David Daigle, a spokesman for the agency. "Tracking them all down is darn near impossible."

Nonetheless, a "very aggressive" effort is on now, said Dr. Martin Cetron, the agency's deputy director for quarantine. But many were sold at informal pet swaps, he said, "and then things end without a good paper trail."

Monkeypox — so called because it was first diagnosed in monkeys — is a less virulent cousin of smallpox, and vaccination against smallpox appears to protect against it. There were no deaths in the June outbreak, but in West Africa, up to 10 percent of cases are fatal.

At the beginning of the outbreak, the centers and the Food and Drug Administration banned importing of all African rodents and the sale or distribution of six species from the April shipment: tree squirrels, rope squirrels, dormice, Gambian giant pouched rats, brush-tailed porcupines and striped mice. They also banned the transport, sale or release of prairie dogs.

Yesterday's directive was ambiguous about what constituted contact with an infected animal, and it confused some pet shop owners. Details of the directive are at /quarantineremoval.htm.

Eileen Whitmarsh, an owner of Rainbow Pets in Shorewood, Wis., who caught monkeypox from a prairie dog in her store, mistakenly thought the order meant she had to kill the 60 apparently healthy hamsters, rats and gerbils she now has quarantined.

"Our animals are checked by the Health Department daily, and they are having babies," Ms. Whitmarsh said. "Sick animals do not have babies."

David Crawford of Boulder, Colo., acting director of the Prairie Dog Coalition, which defends wild prairie dog habitats and opposes keeping the animals as pets, called the euthanasia suggestion "a classic case of blaming the victim."

"This problem was caused by human beings, and it's easy for us to take the `kill them all' approach," he said. "But if this was a human population, we'd be aghast at an order to kill. This calls for quarantine and testing, not euthanasia."

Two weeks ago, at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the centers, Dr. Gregory A. Poland, a committee member and the chief of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, asked why the agency had not already ordered all possibly exposed animals killed.

An official of the centers replied that people became attached to their pets.

"So what?" Dr. Poland said. "I know what we'd do if this was an outbreak of mad cow disease. We'd kill the whole herd" (New York Times, 2003)

Title: Mysterious Disease Claims Lives Of More Than 10,000 Bats In New York Area
Date: February 29, 2008

Abstract: Last year at four caves near Albany, N.Y., more than 10,000 bats died from a mysterious disease involving a white fungus growing on some bats’ noses, leading researchers to dub it “white-nose syndrome.”

The mounting death toll stopped last year when spring arrived and the bats left the caves. But the deaths returned with a vengeance after the bats went into hibernation this winter. With 14 known caves infected across New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, scientists estimate as many as 500,000 bats may currently be affected with the syndrome.

“Our only hope at this stage is we’re not too far from the spring thaw,” said Dale Sparks, assistant director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation at Indiana State University.

Storm and Boyles, who are working on doctorates in the ecology and organismal biology department, were selected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take part in the research hoping to unravel the mystery of what is leading to the bats’ deaths. Using a thermal imaging camera, Boyles and Storm entered caves in the Catskill Mountains of New York to record the hibernating animals’ body temperatures during several days in February (ENN, 2008)

Title: Zoonoses Likely To Be Used In Bioterrorism
Date: May-June 2008
Source: Pub Med

Abstract: Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other agents used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Only modest microbiologic skills are needed to produce and effectively use biologic weapons. And biological warfare has afflicted campaigns throughout military history, at times playing an important role in determining their outcomes.

There is a long list of potential pathogens for use by terrorists, but only a few are easy to prepare and disperse. Of the infectious diseases, the vast majority are zoonoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's highest-priority bioterrorism agents are in Category A. The only disease that does not affect animals in Category A is smallpox, which was eliminated by a worldwide vaccination program in the late 1970s. Because these diseases can infect animals and humans, the medical and veterinary communities should work closely together in clinical, public health, and research settings. 

The Model State Emergency Health Powers defines bioterrorism as the intentional use of any microorganism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product that may be engineered as a result of biotechnology—or any naturally occurring or bioengineered component of any such microorganism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product—to cause death, disease, or other biological malfunction in a human, animal, plant, or other living organism to influence the conduct of government or to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. Biological weapons (bioweapons) are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, cause death or disabling disease, and can be aerosolized and distributed over large geographic areas.

There is a long list of potential pathogens for use by terrorists; however, only a few are easy to prepare and disperse. Traditional agents of offensive biological warfare (biowarfare) programs have included the causative organisms of anthrax, plague, tularemia, brucellosis, glanders, melioidosis, various foodborne illnesses, cryptosporidiosis, cryptococcosis, Q fever, psittacosis, dengue fever, smallpox, viral equine encephalitides, and the viral hemorrhagic fevers. All are seen in animals, except for smallpox and dengue fever.

A Russian panel of bioweapons experts reviewed pathogens and determined the vast majority of pathogens were animal diseases transmissible to people, or zoonoses. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that 80% of the common pathogens likely to be used in biowarfare are zoonoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently classifies bioterrorism diseases/agents most likely to be used into categories A, B, and C, with A having the highest priority. Of the infectious diseases in CDC's classification system, the majority are zoonoses. Of the Category A diseases, more than 80% are zoonoses. Category C includes emerging diseases, of which about 75% are zoonoses (Pub Med, 2008).

Title: MRSA In Pigs And Pig Farmers
Date: Januay 23, 2009
Source: Discovery

Abstract: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is very difficult to kill. This notorious “superbug” can withstand a broad and growing range of antibiotics, and is the leading cause of hospital infections in many countries. But it’s not restricted to hospitals. According to studies coming in from all over the world, MRSA has found a new route into our bodies -piggyback. 

Pig farms throughout the world have become breeding grounds for strains of MRSA that can jump from swine to humans. These strains have already been isolated in the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada, and now, the latest study adds the USA to that list. The research was led by Tara Smith from the University of Iowa, who I know as a Scibling and who many of you will recognize as the author of the excellent Aetiology blog.

Smith found widespread traces of MRSA in two different production systems in the states of Iowa and Illinois. Within the nostrils of 49% of pigs and 45% of pig farmers, her team detected traces of the “superbug” (although it’s worth noting that none of the farmers had experienced any actual infections). Piglets had the highest rates of infection and in fact, every single pig under the age of 12 weeks harboured MRSA colonies.

The high levels of the bacterium in both man and pig suggest that it can spread readily between the two species. To MRSA, both four leg and two legs are good…

The link between MRSA and pigs was first discovered a few years ago in the Netherlands. Dutch hospitals have little to fear from MRSA – aggressive “search-and-destroy” policies and restricted antibiotic use have controlled the bug to such an extent that hospitals list “treatment in foreign hospitals” as a risk factor for infection!

But in 2003, Dutch researchers started to find unexpected cases of MRSA in pig farmers and eventually identified the culprit as a new strain that became known as ST398, or non-typeable MRSA (NT-MRSA). It’s this same strain that Smith found in the Iowan pigs.

In 2007, Albert de Neeling and Xander Huijsdens found ST398 in 39% of pigs and 81% of local pig farms, suggesting again that the bacteria was jumping from pigs to humans. In the same year, Huijsdens, together with Inge van Loo, found further proof for this theory. By comparing 35 people with ST398 to 76 people carrying other strains, they found that the ST398 carriers were 12 times more likely to have come into close contact with pigs and 20 times more likely to have come into contact with cattle. On a map, they saw that the distribution of ST398 uncannily matched the spread of pig and cattle farms.

ST398 is a newcomer. By reviewing a national MRSA database, Dr Huijsdens and Dr van Loo found that the strain was non-existent in 2002 but now accounts for over one in five human infections. Its origin is unclear. It almost certainly jumped from pigs to humans, but the researchers think that this was just the return part of a round-trip. They think the bacteria may have originally jumped from humans to pigs.

In their new porky hosts, the bacteria developed new antibiotic resistances and returned, stronger than ever. Unlike other strains, ST398 strongly withstands tetracyclines, a group of antibiotics that is heavily used to medicate livestock. Unnecessary antibiotic use has been blamed for the evolution of MRSA strains in humans and the same could apply to pigs, especially since the farming industry uses more antibiotics than hospitals. Under such heavy assault, it is almost inevitable that bacteria, which reproduce quickly and swap beneficial mutations, will develop resistance.

So far, it is not clear if ST398 is spreading beyond pig farms or if it causes so-called community-associated MRSA, which occurs outside the hospital setting. For the moment, people who frequently come into contact with pigs or cattle, including vets, have the highest risk of infection. The bacteria could also spread to their friends and family by hitching a ride on clothes or skin.

Even the food chain is not entirely safe. Van Loo detected ST398 in 2 out of 79 meat samples from Dutch supermarkets and butchers, but only at low levels that are unlikely to cause disease if food is properly prepared. For the general population, there’s no need to panic over ham and bacon but the risks could be higher for people who handle meat directly, or those with weakened immune systems. At least one hospital outbreak began when an immunocompromised patient ate contaminated meat. Even though this was a different MRSA strain, it set a dangerous precedent.

The problem is not confined to the Netherlands either. Pigs are heavily exported around the world and ST398 may have stowed away inside them. It has already been detected in France, Singapore and Denmark. Scott Weese from the University of Guelph in Ontario found the Dutch strain in a quarter of local pigs and more worryingly, in a fifth of pig farmers. Human cases of ST398 are extremely rare in Canada but that could change as it spreads among the pig population.

And as we’ve seen, the US is affected too. As the largest importer of Canadian pork, their farms could have become contaminated by swine brought in from their northern neighbour, but only further studies can confirm that. It’s also unclear how widespread ST398 is in the US, but Iowa alone accounts for a quarter of all the swine raised within its borders.

It is clear that we need more research and better monitoring to fully understand the scale of the MRSA epidemic in pigs and the role that agricultural antibiotics have played in it. Only then we recommend the right control measures to protect farmers and the wider population (Discovery, 2009)

Title: Top 10 Animals That Carry Flu
Date: June 1, 2009

Abstract: Health organizations worldwide are struggling to contain a 
swine flu outbreak that has killed at least 149 people in Mexico and sickened many more throughout the world, including in the United States, Europe and New Zealand. U.S. cases have now been reported across the country, with victims in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas.

Flu was first found among pigs in 1930. Over subsequent decades, health experts have identified influenza viruses in several other species as well. But which animals can pass such viruses on to people? You might be surprised by our top 10 list.

10. Whale
Could a whale flu be in our future? 
Whales can suffer from influenza, probably by catching germs spread by bird waste. In theory, people could be exposed to and infected by the virus if they came in close contact with infected whales or poorly cooked whale meat. But the risk of that happening, not surprisingly, is low.

"It's really unlikely, because the ocean tends to dilute things," Gramer said. "Again, such a scenario would need a perfect storm since, as it stands, wild waterfowl, like seagulls, poop out the virus, which then has a slim chance of infecting whales."

9. Seal
While no "seal flu" has been known to spread to humans, the marine mammals can become infected with Type A influenza viruses. And Vaillancourt said other diseases have crossed the human-seal species line.

"Some populations consisting of people who eat raw seal meat have been diagnosed with toxic parasitic illnesses," he said. "We've done studies that show cooking reduces nearly all of this problem."

8. Cat

Cats, like dogs, enjoy close contact with people. While most experts believe that simple hand-washing can eliminate the risk of obtaining diseases from pets, there is a possibility that both dogs and cats could spread a recombined form of avian influenza to humans.

"Cases of tigers and domesticated cats coming down with avian flu have been reported overseas," Johnson told Discovery News. "In most, if not all, cases, I believe, the animals had consumed dead infected chickens or other birds." The easiest way to stave off such risks would be to monitor pets so they don't eat birds or any other wild, potentially infected prey.

7. Dog
In 2004, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in 
dogs, initially racing greyhounds, were reported to the CDC. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus.

Scientists believe that this virus jumped from horses to dogs, and can now spread from dog to dog, leading to the canine-specific H3N8 virus. Experts consider the strain to be "a newly emerging pathogen in the dog population."

If it jumped from horses to dogs, could it move from dogs to humans?

"It's possible, but it would need a perfect storm," Gramer said. "The moment of transfer would have to involve the right person, the right place, the right animal and the right time."

6. Horse
According to the CDC, 
horses too can become infected with Type A influenza viruses.

"People with horses must handle them a lot, particularly around the facial area," said Marie Gramer, an assistant clinical professor of veterinary population medicine at the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine. "When horses suffer from an influenza virus, they can cough, sneeze and have a runny nose just like we do."

"What's coughed out," she added, is of less risk to humans than avian germs, "because most pathogens that infect horses become more species-specific."

5. Turkey
While not all birds can catch the flu, most are susceptible to Type A influenza that may spread to humans. Turkeys are no exception. Earlier this year, in fact, an H5 avian influenza virus surfaced on a turkey farm in southern British Columbia. It was quickly contained. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of turkeys have been slaughtered in Canada and elsewhere when such infections have been identified.

In 2004, for example, British Columbia's Fraser River Valley experienced an outbreak that affected 40 commercial farms and led to the culling of 17 million birds, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Suppliers maintain rigid guidelines to ensure public safety. "We often criticize factory farms, but in this case modern production has helped to reduce direct contact with animals, thus staving off infections," Vaillancourt told Discovery News. "In Asia and Mexico, many families live with their poultry and other animals raised for food, so they remain in close proximity to them."

4. Goose
Both wild and domestic geese have been known to contract the infamous 
H5N1 virus. The birds' broad ranges can pose a problem: "These birds can fly 1,000 miles a day at maximum," explained Yi Guan, of the University of Hong Kong, China. If geese raised for poultry come into contact with infected wild geese, the risk of influenza spreading to humans increases. Most cases involving geese began with poultry workers in Asian countries who had direct contact with sick or dead birds.

3. Duck
Ducks are often raised for their meat, especially in Asia. Health experts, therefore, often monitor duck illnesses in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and other Asian countries that have experienced
avian flu outbreaks.

"Ducks are more considered as carriers, however, than as direct threats," said Johnson, who explained that ducks seem less likely to spread influenza to humans, but that they can infect other animals. Researchers in Mexico have not ruled out the possibility that a bird, such as a chicken or duck, was the original source of the latest outbreak, which could have jumped to pigs and then humans.

2. Pig
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has long warned that "pigs play a role in transmitting influenza virus to humans." Earlier reported cases, however, mostly involved agricultural workers, or others who were in close direct contact with pigs. A child on a communal farm in Canada, for example, came down with 
the swine flu in 2006.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been monitoring swine flu for some time as well, since pigs can be infected with human and avian viruses, in addition to their own pig-specific germs.

If an infection of more than one virus occurs simultaneously, "recombination may occur," Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Montreal, told Discovery News. He explained that the latest strain appears to consist of "a virus that's 80 percent swine, with the rest being a mixture of avian and human viruses."

Although world leaders, such as President Barack Obama, are urging "concern" and not alarm over the outbreak, the potential for pandemic exists, experts have informed Discovery News, since the disease is now spreading from person to person.

1. Chicken
Avian flu may not be the headline-maker now, but it has caused hundreds of human deaths over just the past decade, with chickens being the most common source of contagion.

"Many birds are susceptible to influenza strains that may transmit to humans, but butchering, handling and other forms of close contact heighten the risk," April Johnson told Discovery News. Johnson is an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health in the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Comparative Pathobiology. "The H5N1 avian virus continues to be of concern because 60 percent of all humans who have contracted this illness died after becoming infected" (Discovery, 2012)

Title: An Emerging Tick-Borne Disease Seen In Parts Of The United States: What Is Anaplasmosis?
Date: September 12, 2009

Abstract: As reported in the 
LaCrosse, health officials in this area of Wisconsin are seeing more cases of an emerging tick-borne disease known as anaplasmosis.

According to researchers, they have seen 50 cases of the disease in humans in the past 3 years. In addition, up to 15% of ticks collected have been found to have the bacterial organism.

The organism that causes this disease is calledAnaplasma phagocytophilum. It is an intracellular pathogen that is part of the Rickettsia (the same group of bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever amongst other diseases) family.

Formerly known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, and as the former name of the disease implies, it’s an infection of the white blood cells.

People get this infection through the bite of an infected tick. Depending on the part of the United States you are, the tick species is different: the eastern part of the country is the black-legged tick,Ixodes scapularis, and in the western part of the country, Ixodes pacificus, is usually involved. These are deer ticks that are also involved in the transmission of Lyme disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 600-800 cases of anaplasmosis are reported to CDC each year. States reporting the highest incidence of anaplasmosis in 2006 were Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The disease is also seen throughout other parts of North America, Europe and Asia.

After a period of a couple of days to a few weeks, most people infected with Anaplasma show influenza- like symptoms (fever, malaise, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory symptoms such as a cough). Symptoms tend to be more severe in those that are immunosuppressed and the elderly.

There are specific antibody tests against Anaplasma phagocytophilum that can be used in the diagnosis of anaplasmosis.

The treatment is doxycycline, the same antibiotic used to treat other related organisms.

To prevent an infection of anaplasmosis, take the normal precautions used to prevent any tick- borne disease; the use of DEET on clothing and exposed skin, the use of long sleeved shirts and tucking pants into the socks and avoiding areas where ticks are more likely found like grassy, brushy or wooded areas (Examiner, 2009)

Title: Tick Borne Infections: Babesia
Date: October 25, 2009

Abstract: This parasitic disease of the red blood cells can be found worldwide, however most documented cases have been found in the United States. Most human infections are attributed to the species, 
Babesia microti, while other species are less often seen in zoonotic infections.

It is seen most frequently in the Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island) and to a lesser extent in the upper Midwest (Minnesota and Wisconsin).

The parasite is typically transmitted through a tick bite, Ixodes scapularis in the U.S., from late spring to early fall.

It can also be transmitted through 
blood transfusions and this is not restricted by geographical regions.

Depending on host factors (people without a spleen, immunocompromised) the disease can range from asymptomatic to life threatening.

Symptoms if present typically appear as non-specific flu like symptoms, fever, chills, body aches, and hemolytic anemia.

The danger for donated blood is that even asymptomatic people may have low-level amount of Babesia in the bloodstream from months to longer than a year making blood transfusion infections an issue. Tests for screening blood donors for Babesia are not available.

After getting infected, the presence of symptoms is variable depending on the host and parasite factors. Typically after tick borne transmission symptoms appear in one to three weeks and it may be weeks to months post blood transfusion.

Laboratory diagnosis of acute cases is by identifying the parasite within red blood cells microscopically. It is sometime difficult to differentiate from the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum).

A combination therapy of clindamycin and quinine is standard care for severe infection. Also coinfections with lyme disease or 
anaplasmosis should be considered.

If you live in Babesia endemic areas, prevention is through rodent control (deer mice and other small mammals) and the use of tick repellen
(Examiner, 2009)

Title: Animal Health - Beware of Animal Diseases In Bioterrorism
July 1, 2010
All Africa

The suspected outbreak of anthrax in hippos in Western Uganda in the past weeks has yet again reminded us of some of the ignored facts about animal diseases. I overheard someone on the streets of Kampala inform a colleague ignorantly that anthrax was a disease of those who live with or stay near animals in the villages. This totally shocked me and I felt like going over to him and giving a lecture of a lifetime.

I, however, restrained myself and just thought about how they didn't know that the same disease could be brought right at their footsteps in their so-called city. They were possibly unaware of what we call bioterrorism.

It is possible for unscrupulous people to use known lethal animal disease agents as weapons of mass destruction. This is known as bioterrorism. Anthrax is indeed one of the microorganisms that can be used as biological weapons of mass destruction. The other significant animal diseases in that group include; Botulism, Plague, Tularaemia, Ebola and Marburg diseases. These diseases are of great public health importance because:

The host animals or carriers that are sources of infection often show little or no sign of disease at all.

The disease agents have mechanisms of propagation that allow infection to move from one individual to another.

Their effects result in high mortality rates and have the potential for a major impact on the public.

They can cause public panic and social disruption.

They require special action when they occur and also need public health preparedness in order to limit their progress.

Anthrax is clearly documented as one of the diseases whose agents have been used in the past for bioterrorism. This can be alternatively spread through spraying in the air, mailed packages and release in the ventilation systems of public buildings.

In the wake of the September 11th, attacks on the USA, some people were reported to have been exposed to anthrax in powder form that had been sent to them as mail in envelopes. This incident, a classic example of how an animal disease can find you in the comfort of your office, sparked off a major public health awareness campaign on bioterrorism that got many US citizens and others around the world to be alert about such diseases.

As for Ugandans, even though we are far from the USA, and that we probably have far less enemies, we should not ignore the likelihood of such events happening (All Africa, 2010).

Title: Vampire Bats And Rabies Killing Children In Native Communities In Peru
Date: February 19, 2011

Abstract: So far in the month of February, at least six children have perished to 
rabies in Amazonas region of Peru according to the Ministry of Health. The children range in age from 1 to 14 years of age and all were bitten by vampire bats.

The children are from the native communities of San Ramon and Yupicusa in the Bagua province which borders Ecuador.

According to Dr Peter Quintanilla, director of health of Chachapoyas,” We have reports of 6 dead children due to an outbreak of sylvatic rabies in the region."

One of the problems health officials there are having is many of the indigenous peoples affected are seeking the care of folk healers, blaming the rabies on witchcraft, instead of seeking vaccination.

The Ministry of Health has sent workers to administer rabies vaccinations to these remote populations which can take 15 hours on rivers through the rainforests.

Many of the indigenous peoples in these remote villages live in dwelling that are relatively open, making it easy for vampire bats to feed on people when they sleep when preferred food sources are unavailable. The preferred hosts for blood meals are cattle and horses (Examiner, 2011)

Title: AIU Ph.D Asks: Could Invasive Species Become The Next Biological Weapon?
Date: November 9, 2011
Business Wire

Abstract: A doctoral dissertation written recently by Lawrence Roberge to complete his Ph.D at 
Atlantic International University (AIU), warns that invasive (or non-indigenous) species can be used as unique forms of biological weapons. The United States Department of Agriculture defines invasive species as non-native to an ecosystem and likely to cause environmental, health or economic harm.

“We must prepare for the use of invasive species as biological weapons”

In the hands of a rogue nation, terrorists, or an individual bent on destruction, an invasive species could have an affect similar to better known potential biological weapons such as smallpox or anthrax. Roberge, currently an associate professor of Anatomy & Physiology at Laboure College in Boston, MA, explores multiple threats posed by invasive species including:

  • Feral pigs can be used to carry the Nipah virus and spread disease to humans, cattle and wildlife.
  • The heartwater pathogen, a microbe that can cause heart and pulmonary edema, and carried by the tropical bont tick, can kill deer, cattle or other wildlife, and potentially be transmitted to humans.
  • Striga, a plant parasite that can destroy corn crops, and subsequently devastate commodity markets and bio-fuel production.
  • Barberry plants that are eaten by birds whose droppings spread wheat stem rust, which can cause a decline or destruction of wheat production.

Roberge’s research for AIU, which is based in Honolulu, HI and specializes in distance learning, builds upon ongoing studies by researchers at colleges and universities, the U.S. government and ecological research centers. Roberge began his research by examining if this type of threat was possible and realized it was a clear and present danger. He says that invasive species could be used to selectively destroy parts of a society potentially causing fear, social chaos, food shortages, and other forms of mass destructions.

A nation in this state would be vulnerable, and perhaps unable to respond, to an outright attack. “We must prepare for the use of invasive species as biological weapons,” says Roberge. “These types of weapons are inexpensive to produce and hard to detect immediately, so they can cause extensive damage before they can be controlled.”

The dissertation also examines ways to prevent and prepare for an attack from invasive species. Roberge suggests:

1. Creation of a database of biocontrol agents and services such as predators, pathogens and parasites of these organisms, currently available or under development, which could be used to destroy an invasive species.

2. Expansion of rapid global reporting systems for invasive species to help scientists detect early warning signs of an attack.

3. Genomic mapping research for known and high risk, non-indigenous organisms, in order to quickly identify a genetically engineered organism, which would strongly indicate the possibility of an attack.

Roberge’s doctoral dissertation is entitled “Introduced Species as a Biological Weapon.”

(Roberge is continuing his research on non-indigenous species and their potential use as biological weapons as well as biodefense) (Business Wire, 2011).

Title: Researcher Lawrence Roberge Warns Invasive Species Could Be Used As Biological Weapons
Date: January 4, 2012
Mass Live

Abstract: Bullets and bombs may not be the primary weapons of war in the 21st century. The United States could be just as harmed by invasive species introduced by its enemies, a researcher warns.

“This kind of threat is a lot easier to produce and has a greater impact and could last much longer. It could devastate ecosystems, agricultural productivity, economic productivity and commodity markets,” said Lawrence F. Roberge, a Ludlow resident who is an associate professor of anatomy and physiology at Laboure College in Boston.

An invasive species is not native to an ecosystem and likely to cause environmental, health or economic damage. Gypsy moths and zebra mussels are examples.

In his doctoral dissertation for Atlantic International University, Roberge wrote that such things as introduced feral pigs and ticks, deliberately infected with deadly pathogens, could spread widely before the threat could be identified and contained.

“Some of these could take decades to eradicate,” he said.

“We must prepare for the use of invasive species as biological weapons,” he said. “These types of weapons are inexpensive to produce and hard to detect immediately, so they can cause extensive damage before they can be controlled.”

The threat does not have to be deadly to cause damage, according to Roberge. Even the presence of threats like deer ticks infected with the organisms that cause Lyme disease “has changed people’s behavior,” he said.

He said an invasive species could have an effect similar to better known potential biological weapons, such as smallpox or anthrax.

Roberge said the United States is unprepared for invasive species used as biological weapons.

To deal with the threat of invasive species, the National Invasive Species Council was formed in 1999, chaired by the secretaries of the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Commerce. After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was added as a member.

Laurie C. Williams, the council’s executive director, said, “The council has been very active on the issue of invasive species - but more in terms of accidental release or introduction rather than as a potential terrorist threat.”

“However, a good system of prevention and early detection and rapid response would ideally address invasive species, regardless of the reason the species was being introduced,” she said (Mass Live, 2012).

Title: Bird Flu, Pig Flu, Now Bat Flu? Human Risk Unclear
Date: February 28, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: For the first time, scientists have found evidence of flu in bats, reporting a never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear.

The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven't been able to grow it, and it's not clear if - or how well - it spreads.

Flu bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence.

"Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible" animals, said Ruben Donis, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who co-authored the new study.

Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the bat population into this new variety. Scientists haven't even been able to grow the new virus in chicken eggs or in human cell culture, as they do with more conventional flu strains.

But it still could pose a threat to humans. For example, if it mingled with more common forms of influenza, it could swap genes and mutate into something more dangerous, a scenario at the heart of the global flu epidemic movie "Contagion."

The research was posted online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The CDC has an international outpost in Guatemala, and that's where researchers collected more than 300 bats in 2009 and 2010. The research was mainly focused on rabies, but the scientists also checked specimens for other germs and stumbled upon the new virus. It was in the intestines of little yellow-shouldered bats, said Donis, a veterinarian by training.

These bats eat fruit and insects but don't bite people. Yet it's possible they could leave the virus on produce and a human could get infected by taking a bite.

It's conceivable some people were infected with the virus in the past. Now that scientists know what it looks like, they are looking for it in other bats as well as humans and other animals, said Donis, who heads the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in the CDC's flu division.

At least one expert said CDC researchers need to do more to establish they've actually found a flu virus.

Technically, what the CDC officials found was genetic material of a flu virus. They used a lab technique to find genes for the virus and amplify it.

All they found was a segment of genetic material, said Richard "Mick" Fulton, a bird disease researcher at Michigan State University.

What they should do is draw blood from more bats, try to infect other bats and take other steps to establish that the virus is spreading among the animals, he continued. "In my mind, if you can't grow the virus, how do you know that the virus is there?"

Donis said work is going on to try to infect healthy bats, but noted there are other viruses that were discovered by genetic sequencing but are hard to grow in a lab, including hepatitis C (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Bat Flu Virus Found
Date: February 28, 2012

Abstract: A new strain of influenza A has been found in fruit bats, indicating for the first time that bats, like birds, can be carriers of the virus, though it is not believed risky to humans, according to US health authorities.

"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 Suxiang Tong, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's pathogen discovery program.

"The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses."

The influenza A virus was detected in a sample of three of 316 live little yellow-shouldered bats captured at two different sites in Guatemala.

That type of bat is not known to bite humans but feeds on fruit, and is native to Central and South America.

Previous flu pandemics, such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which came to the public's attention as "swine flu," have been known to originate in animals and eventually transform so that they gain the ability to infect people.

"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 Ruben Donis, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in CDC's Influenza Division.

"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."

More details about the findings are published in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Discovery, 2012)

Title: Deadly, Bat-Killing Epidemic Came From Europe
Date: April 9, 2012

Abstract: New clues are helping explain the mysteries surrounding white-nose syndrome, a devastating epidemic that has killed more than five and a half million bats in the eastern United States and Canada in just a few years.

In the latest advance, the strongest evidence yet suggests that infection with a suspected fungus causes the deadly disease. What's more, the fungus appears to have traveled to North America from Europe, possibly on a human shoe or on animal stowaways.

Once the fungus arrived here in 2006, North American bats were defenseless against the infectious killer, leading to the worst epidemic of wild mammals ever observed on this continent. Last week, the disease turned up for the first time in bats west of the Mississippi.

While many questions remain unanswered, each new detail brings scientists closer to figuring out how to stop a devastating and bewildering wildlife disease.

“Before we can even know whether a solution is possible, we have to know what the disease is doing and where it came from,” said Craig Willis, a wildlife biologist at the University of Winnipeg in Canada. “That may still be a long time away, but getting at these fundamental questions is really important.”

“This is probably our fault,” he added, referring to the likely role that tourists played in carrying the fungus from a cave in Europe to a popular cave in upstate New York, where the North American white-nose epidemic began. “For that reason, we have an obligation to figure out what is going on, to invest in understanding it, and to do our best to try and fix it or at least make it not as bad as possible.”

Ever since March 2006, when an annual survey of hibernating bats turned up thousands of dead animals in the New York cave, scientists have been racing to decode the secrets of a rapidly spreading killer.

Studies have narrowed in on a fungus called Geomyces destructans (Gd), which thrives in cold temperatures, causes lesions on bats’ wings and can be spread through direct contact from bat to bat. But proof that the fungus kills bats has remained elusive.

To investigate, Willis and colleagues collected 54 hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) from a cave in Manitoba and transported them to a carefully protected facility at the University of Saskatchewan. All of the bats were healthy and free of disease.

Using a pipette, the researchers put Gd fungi that had been isolated from North America on the wings of one group of bats. They put European Gd on another third. And they put fungus-free liquid on a third group. Then, they placed the bats in specially designed incubators that were kept cold with high levels of humidity, which are the conditions that little brown bats prefer for hibernating.

All of the bats quickly returned to a state of torpor. The scientists waited and watched.

Pretty soon, both groups of infected bats developed lesions on their wings. By day 70, some of the bats infected with the European fungus began to die, the researchers report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By day 90, some of those with the North American version followed -- showing for the first time that infection with the fungus alone was enough to kill the animals.

Even while still alive, infected bats displayed some unusual behaviors. Normally during hibernation, healthy bats periodically warm their bodies up for about an hour before dropping back into a chilly torpor again -- probably as a way to get rid of wastes.

All of the bats in the study experienced occasional temperature spikes, but infected bats warmed up significantly more often. Each warming event takes energy, and extra warnings caused infected bats to deplete their fat stores before hibernation was over.

Besides helping to explain how white-nose syndrome develops, the study was also able to show where the disease came from. Because both geographic strains of fungus caused similar symptoms, the study ruled out the possibility that white-nose syndrome arose from a random mutation in fungus that already existed in North America. Instead, the fungus appears to have traveled here from Europe.

European bats aren’t dying en masse from the disease, though, which might mean that overseas, flying mammals have developed immune defenses against the infectious fungus. That would explain why the European strain hit North American bats harder in the new study. Once on this side of the Atlantic, the fungus may have mutated to become less virulent because bats here were already so vulnerable.

“As much as it breaks my heart, this tells us that people inadvertently brought it from one place to another by not cleaning their boots or pants,” said Brock Fenton, a bat biologist at Western University in London, Ontario. “Before, you could at least say here’s a calamity but it was not caused by humans. Now, I don’t think you can believe that anymore.”

Theoretically, understanding how the disease works and spreads could lead to interventions that would slow or stop it. But there are still many unanswered questions, and a cure remains elusive.

“I don’t think this paper gives us any better handle on solving the problem than we had before, which was no handle at all,” Fenton said. “Right now, the outlook is really bleak” (Discovery, 2012)

Title: 80 Giant Roundworms Removed From Katraj Woman’s Intestines
Date: March 26, 2012

Abstract: T
wo months ago, when 35-year-old Alka, a resident of Katraj, suffered abdominal pain little did she know that her intestines had been infested by parasitic worms. Assuming it to be a common pain, she treated herself with some painkillers. 

But last month, the pain became unbearable and rendered her almost bed-ridden. Finally, on February 27 she visited Dr Umesh Vaidya, head of the department of surgery of the Bharati Vidyapeeth Hospital, who conducted a surgery after initial investigation. 

However, Vaidya and his team were astonished to find 80 giant roundworms in her intestines during the rare surgery. Normally, one or two parasitic worms called the ‘ascaris lumbricoides’ are found in the human stomach. 

However, the doctors were even more surprised when they found that the worms were one-and-a-half-foot long and Alka had managed to survive with such a parasitic infestation for two months.

Now after the successful surgery, the doctors are planning to study Alka case to ascertain the cause behind the infestation. 

Presently, the doctors are attributing the reason to consumption of contaminated water, poor sanitation facilities and eating unhealthy food. Alka, a mother of two, underwent a laparotomy surgery on March 1. She was  unable to pass stools due to the pain. 

Dr Vaidya had suggested she take a USG (Abdomen and Pelvis) test which revealed she had acute mechanical bowel obstruction due to extensive roundworm infestation. The infestation was further confirmed by a CT scan.

Vaidya said, “In such a condition there was no option but to conduct a laparotomy surgery. We had presumed that there may be one or two worms. But while operating we were surprised to see 80 of them. Dr Rahul Kadam and Dr Vikas Wakalkar were part of our team.”

“During intra-operative findings, we saw that her small intestines were full of worms. As part of the surgery, all the worms were cleared through a minor enterotomy incision on the terminal ileum about one foot away from the ileocecal junction.” said Vaidya.

He said that they discovered that the entire large intestine was also infested with gaint worms. “Attempts to remove them through her rectum proved futile. Hence, a separate enterotomy on the descending colon was done and all the worms were removed,” Vaidya said.

“All of us were wondering how the lady survived with 80 gaint roundworms in her body. We had to remove each worm one by one from her tummy. We had to be extra careful to prevent the worms from falling inside the patient’s body. We ensured that not a single one was left behind as this could have proved fatal,” he added. 

About Ascaris Lumbricoides  

It is a common parasitic roundworm found in human beings which causes the disease, ascariasis. The disease is prevalent in areas of poor sanitation and where human feces are used as fertiliser. 

The parasite has a life cycle of about three months. Ascariasis starts, when ascaris lumbricoides eggs are accidentally swallowed. 

They can be acquired through dirty fingers, water or food that has been contaminated with feces of an infected human.  Larvae hatch from the eggs, penetrate the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream

Blockage of the biliary tract, diarrhoea, fever, nausea, obstruction of the bowel (which can be fatal), stomach ache, slower growing of a child or a teen, vomiting, weakness. breathing difficulty, cough and/or coughing up blood 

•    Avoid touching soil that might be contaminated with human feces 
•    Wash hands with water and soap before eating or preparing food  
•    Wash, peel or cook all fruits and vegetables before eating

Why Laparotomy  
•    The gaint roundworms were first paralysed two days before the surgery 
•    A dose of ‘pyrantel’ was administered orally to Alka
•    Next day, the doctors looked for the possibility of extracting the worms naturally
•    Getting a negative response, they decided to operate on her after 48 hours of dosage
•    Tried to push the worms through the rectum and the anus to avoid a cut on the intestine
•    When it proved futile, they decided to conduct a laparotomy surgery
(PuneMirror, 2012).

Title: Seven Kids Die After Being Bitten By Bats In Peru
Date: May 24, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: Seven children have died from rabies in Peru over the past two months after being bitten by bats, an official said Wednesday.

The children, aged 11 months to 14, hailed from a remote region about 721 miles (1,160km) southeast of the capital Lima, Health Ministry official Ana Maria Navarro said.

"According to the symptoms and medical reports, it appears the seven indigenous children died of rabies," she said.

Navarro distanced herself from a lawmaker who suggested the deaths, which occurred between April 13 and May 20, were caused by water contaminated by leaking liquid gas.

To prevent further fatalities, vaccination teams have been rushed to the affected Camana community of 720 people that can only be reached by river.

In February 2011, at least six children in another region of the Amazon, in Peru's northeast, died of rabies carried by bats (Fox News, 2012)

Title: African Monkey Meat That Could Be Behind The Next HIV
Date: May 25, 2012

Abstract: Deep in the rainforest of south-east Cameroon, the voices of the men rang through the trees. "Where are the white people?" they shouted. The men, who begin to surround us, are poachers, who make their money from the illegal slaughter of gorillas and chimpanzees. They disperse but make it known that they are not keen for their activities to be reported; the trade they ply could not only wipe out critically endangered species but, scientists are now warning, could also create the next pandemic of a deadly virus in humans.

Eighty per cent of the meat eaten in Cameroon is killed in the wild and is known as "bushmeat". The nation's favoured dishes are gorilla, chimpanzee or monkey because of their succulent and tender flesh. According to one estimate, up to 3,000 gorillas are slaughtered in southern Cameroon every year to supply an illicit but pervasive commercial demand for ape meat .

"Everyone is eating it," said one game warden. "If they have money they will buy gorilla or chimp to eat."

Frankie, a poacher in the southern Dja Wildlife reserve who gave a fake name, said he is involved in the trade because he can earn good money from it, charging around £60 per adult gorilla killed. "I have to make a living," he said. "Women come from the market and order a gorilla or a chimp and I go and kill them."

Cameroon's south-eastern rainforests are also home to the Baka – traditional forest hunters who have the legal right to hunt wild animals, with the exception of great apes.

Felix Biango, a Baka elder, said the group used to hunt gorilla every few weeks to feed his village, Ayene, but has stopped since Cameroon outlawed the practice 10 years ago. However, he says that every week, three or four people come from the cities to ask the group to help them to hunt wild animals, such as gorillas and chimpanzees.

While the Baka no longer hunt primates for themselves, Mr Biango says that they still kill gorillas for the commercial trade and will eat the meat if they find the animals already dead.

Though Cameroonians have eaten primate meat for years, recent health scares have begun to raise fears about the safety of the meat. "In the village of Bakaklion our brothers found a dead gorilla in the forest," Mr Biango said. "They took it back to the village and ate the meat. Almost immediately, everyone died – 25 men, women and children – the only person who didn't was a woman who didn't eat the meat."

Three-quarters of all new human viruses are known to come from animals, and some scientists believe humans are particularly susceptible to those carried by apes. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is now widely believed to have originated in chimps. Apes are known to host other potentially deadly viruses, such as ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and other potential viruses yet to be discovered.

Babila Tafon, head vet at the primate sanctuary Ape Action Africa (AAA), in Mefou, just outside the capital Yaounde, believes the incident that Biango describes could have been caused by an outbreak of ebola, but cannot be sure because no tests were carried out.

AAA now cares for 22 gorillas and more than one hundred chimps – all orphans of the bushmeat trade.

Mr Tafon tests the blood of all apes arriving at the sanctuary. He says he has recently detected a new virus in the apes – simian foamy virus, which is closely related to HIV. "A recent survey confirmed this is now in humans, especially in some of those who are hunters and cutting up the apes in the south-east of the country," he said.

Viruses are often transferred from ape to human through a bite, scratch or the blood of a dead ape getting into an open wound. There is a lower risk from eating cooked or smoked primates, but it is not completely safe.

Bushmeat is not only a concern for Cameroonians. Each year, an estimated 11,000 tons of bushmeat is illegally smuggled in to the UK, mainly from West Africa, and is known to include some ape meat.

The transfer of viruses from ape to man is a primary concern for the international virology research and referral base run by the Pasteur Centre in Yaounde. Each week, it screens more than 500 blood samples for all manner of viruses, and alerts major international medical research centres if it finds an unfamiliar strain.

Professor Dominique Baudon, the director of the Cameroon centre, says he is concerned that the bushmeat trade is a major gateway for animal viruses to enter humans worldwide, due to the export trade.

He says that the deeper poachers go in to the forest, and the more that primates are consumed, the more exposed people become to new unknown viruses and the more potential there is for the viruses to mutate into potentially aggressive forms. At the Ape Action Africa sanctuary, Rachel Hogan, who came to Cameroon from Birmingham 11 years ago, and her team focus on the last of Cameroon's great apes.

It is not known exactly how many gorillas remain in the wild in Cameroon. Conservationists estimates there may be only a few thousand Western Lowland Gorillas left, which are being gradually forced in to smaller groups by hunting and the destruction of their habitat by logging. In the west of the country, there are only 250 Cross River Gorillas left.

Hunting does not just affect adult apes. One hunter said a baby gorilla had screamed so much for its dead mother, killed for her meat, that he eventually killed it to stop the noise.

Most of the gorillas and chimps Ms Hogan and her team look after are babies who have witnessed the murder of their parents. She says they are often suffering from terrible wounds and even trauma when they arrive at the sanctuary. "They grieve just like humans," she says. "We have had them where they will just sit rocking, grinding their teeth and they don't respond to anything. You have to be able to win back their trust."

Ms Hogan says the apes can even die after the trauma. "They'll stop eating, they won't respond to anything... [They] decide whether they live or die. It's like watching a clock wind down."

The increasing number of rescued apes is putting pressure on the sanctuary. A group of eight gorillas in the wild, protected by one dominant male, needs 16 square kilometres to roam in to live comfortably.

The sanctuary says there is nowhere in the vast tropical rainforest of Cameroon that the apes can safely be returned to the wild. "If this continues there might not be any wild populations of gorillas left," says Ms Hogan.

'Unreported World: The Monkey Business', Channel 4, 7.30pm tonight

Out of Africa: How HIV was Born
Aids, the worst pandemic of modern times which has claimed over 30 million lives, is thought to have begun in the rainforest of west central Africa as a result of the bush meat trade.

For decades, perhaps centuries, wild chimpanzees carrying the Simian Deficiency Virus (SIV) have come into contact with humans who have caught and eaten them. SIV is genetically similar to HIV and, occasionally, when a chimp scratched or bit a hunter, the virus will have been passed on and may have mutated into HIV. In the distant past, when communications were poor, outbreaks of HIV would not have spread beyond the forest. But in the latter part of the last century, as the commercial exploitation of Africa gathered pace, the opportunities for viral spread increased.

Today, the scale of the slaughter is immense. The Washington-based Bush Meat Crisis Task Force estimates that up to five million tons of wild animals are being "harvested" in the Congo Basin every year – the equivalent of 10 million cattle. The trade was initially driven by hunger – it was a cheap source of food – but has burgeoned with increased logging of the forests and growing demand.

Now, it is international, extending the threat beyond the continent's boundaries. Scientists have warned that Britain is at risk from an outbreak caused by the lethal Ebola or Marburg viruses contained in illegal imports of bush meat from Africa.

The size of the imports is unknown, but one 2010 study estimated that five tons of the meat per week were being smuggled in personal baggage via Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Gorilla and chimpanzee meat is said to be on offer to African communities in Hackney and Brixton at hundreds of pounds per kilogram (Independent, 2012).

Title: Bat, Bee, Frog Deaths May Be Linked
Date: June 1, 2012

Abstract: In recent years, diseases have ravaged through bat, honeybee and amphibian populations, and now animal experts suspect that shared factors may link the deaths, which are putting many species at risk for extinction.

The latest setback affects bats, given this week's announcement that the deadly fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in already endangered gray bats. The illness, caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, has mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at some sites.

Simultaneously, Colony Collapse Disorder continues to kill honeybees, while yet another fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis,has wiped out more than 200 frog species across the world.

"It appears that many species are under an immense amount of stress, allowing opportunistic diseases to take hold," Rob Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, told Discovery News. "Life is far more complex, so a single cause is likely not the only explanation for the bat, bee and frog deaths. There could be five, six or more factors involved."

One is how humans may be helping fungal spread. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, white-nose syndrome can be inadvertently transferred from people to bats.

"Some of the first caves in North America to be affected by white nose syndrome were in very high tourism areas," Mies said. "Somebody could have visited a cave in Europe wearing boots, and then brought back a tiny bit of mud on the boots containing dormant fungus."

He explained that the fungus, which is sensitive to body warmth, does not infect humans and most other animals. Bats experience a lower body temperature while hibernating, when the fungus can set in.

"It may eat into a bat's skin, even putting holes in it," Mies said. "The fungus can grow to a point where it winds up replacing the skin."

The amphibian fungus also attacks through the skin, causing an infected frog's skin to become up to 40 times thicker than usual, according to San Francisco State University biologist Vance Vredenburg, who recently conducted a study on the related disease, known as chytrid. Since frogs use their skin to absorb water and vital salts, such sodium and potassium, infection often leads to death.

Other human factors tied to the bat, frog and bee deaths include the use of chemical pesticides that may be absorbed through the skin, climate change, habitat loss and the spread of other health threats, such as viruses and mites. 

Helene Marshall of Marshall's Farm Natural Honey told Discovery News that "the virus causing CCD came to us when U.S. beekeepers were importing Australian packaged bees to meet the high pollination demand of the almond growers here in California."

Both bees and bats are critical to agriculture. Bats, like bees, can help to pollinate. They are also a primary predator of agricultural and other insect pests, such as mosquitoes. Frogs additionally consume insect pests.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service now has a national plan for managing white-nose syndrome in bats. It allows for diagnostics, disease management, disease surveillance and more. But Mies points out that for animals like bats and frogs, antifungals can be "pretty nasty medicines," doing damage of their own and perhaps further damaging ecosystems.

He said that man-made antifungal-treated mines might be created in the future so that bats ready for hibernation can use them. For bees, Marshall has partnered with hotels, businesses and individuals to establish more carefully monitored honeybee hives.

Bees, frogs and bats are usually not poster species for animal conservation, so educating people about their benefits to the environment and economy (via agriculture) is important. Bats are particularly maligned.

"Humans are still killing bats," Mies said. "If one finds its way into your home, please humanely evict it. If possible, you can also put up bat houses, providing much needed safe habitat for them" (Discovery, 2012)

Title: Human-Animal Diseases - Top Hotspots Around The World
Date: July 6, 2012
Medical News Today

Abstract: A new international study has published a "top 20" list of geographical hotspots for human-animal diseases (zoonoses), such as
tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever. According to the study, conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths every year.

A zoonose, or zoonosis is any kind of infectious disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice-versa. Sometimes the human-to-animal transmission is called "reverse soonosis" or "anthroponosis".

Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI in Kenya and lead author of the study explained:

"From cyst-causing tapeworms to avian flu, zoonoses present a major threat to human and animal health. Targeting the diseases is the hardest hit countries is crucial to protecting global health as well as to reducing severe levels of poverty and illness among the world's one billion poor livestock keepers.

Exploding global demand for livestock products is likely to fuel the spread of a wide range of human-animal infectious diseases."

The top four countries regarding zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread morbidity and mortality are:

  • India
  • Ethiopia
  • Tanzania
  • Nigeria

In addition, the team found that Western Europe (especially the UK), parts of Southeast Asia, and the northeastern United States may be hotspots of "emerging zoonoses."

Emerging zoonoses are those that are newly virulent, have recently become drug resistant, or are newly infecting humans.

The study, which receiving funding from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), also found that around 60% of all human diseases and 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.

Zoonose prevalence linked to poverty and market forces
Around the world, 2.5 billion people currently survive on less than US$2 per day. As a result, many people depend on livestock for their food, income, traction, manure or other services.

Despite the danger of zoonoses, the global demand for meat and milk products is on the rise and provides a big opportunity for poor livestock keepers.

Steve Staal, deputy director general-research at ILRI, explained:

"Increased demand will continue over the coming decades, driven by rising populations and incomes, urbanization and changing diets in emerging economies. Greater access to global and regional meat markets could move millions of poor livestock keepers out of poverty if they can effectively participate in meeting that rising demand."

According to the researchers, brucellosis - which reduces milk and meat production by around 8% - affects approximately 1 in 8 livestock in poor countries.

They note that even though the increasing demand for livestock in the developing world represents a pathway out of poverty for many, the presence of zoonotic diseases can perpetuate instead of lower poverty and hunger in livestock-keeping communities.

The team found a 99% correlation between the burden of zoonoses and country levels of protein-energy

Staal said:

"Many poor livestock keepers are not even meeting their own protein and energy needs. Too often, animal diseases, including zoonotic diseases, confound their greatest efforts to escape poverty and hunger."

What is the burdenof zooonoses?
After examining 1,000 surveys involving more than 10 million people, and 6 million animals and 6,000 food or environment samples, the team identified the 14 most important zoonoses.

These zoonoses were prevalent among livestock in developing nations. According to the researchers, at least one-third of global diarrheal diseases are caused by zoonoses. They explain that this type of disease is the biggest zoonotic threat to public health.

John McDermott, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said:

"As production, processing and retail food chains intensify, there are greater risks of food-borne illnesses, especially in poorly managed systems. Historically, high-density pig and poultry populations have been important in maintaining and mixing influenza populations. A major concern is that as new livestock systems intensify, particularly small- and medium-sized pig production, that more intensive systems will allow the maintenance and transmission of pathogens. A number of new zoonoses, such as Nipah virus infections, have emerged in that way."

Tuberculosis and its prevalence in poor nations
According to the researchers, the most rapid changes in pig and poultry farming are expected to occur in India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.

The team highlight that although bovine tuberculosis is rare in both humans and livestock in developed nations, it still affects around 7% of cattle in poor nations - reducing their production by 6%.

The team's findings indicate that the burden of zoonotic forms of TB may be underestimated, with bovine TB responsible for up to 10% of human TB cases.

In developing nations, human TB is still one of the leading and most prevalent human diseases. 80% of the 12 million people who suffered from active disease in 2010, lived in developing nations.

Zoonoses significantly underreported
The researchers found that zoonoses and animal diseases in poor countries are being "massively" underreported. 99.9% of all livestock losses in sub-Saharan Africa are never registered in official disease reports. "Surveillance is not fulfilling its purpose", they added. Today's surveillance problem will grow as the climate changes.

Ethiopia, Nigeria and India

What do these countries have in common?

  • They have the highest burden of zonoses
  • They have the highest number of livestock keepers
  • They have the highest number of malnourished people
  • They are among the top five countries for both absolute numbers affected with zoonoses and relative intensity of zoonoses infection

Grace explained:

"These findings allow us to focus on the hotspots of zoonoses and poverty, within which we should be able to make a difference" (Medical News Today, 2012).

Title: Field Mice Overrun Farms In Central Germany
Date: July 11, 2012

Abstract: Millions of field mice are overrunning the central German states of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, much to the concern of local farmers. The rodents are devastating food crops, cutting yields by up to 50 percent. Getting birds of prey to hunt the critters didn't help, and now farmers want to be allowed to use a banned rat poison.

Under normal circumstances, you might think the 12-centimeter (5-inch) long field mouse looks innocent, or even cute. But farmers in the central German states of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt wouldn't agree at the moment. The furry rodents are currently wreaking havoc in the states, which are suffering the worst field mouse plague in over 30 years.

Farmers in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt are complaining that millions of field mice are devastating their food crops, including corn, barley and winter wheat. "They are eating everything," said Matthias Krieg, who manages an agricultural firm near the town of Zeitz in Saxony-Anhalt. "Not even the sugar beets are safe." Farmers estimate that they may have to write off an average of 10 percent of their crops as a result of mouse damage, and up to 50 percent in extreme cases.

Farmers already noticed an increase in the field mouse population in 2011 and began to take counter measures. According to Reinhard Kopp, a spokesman for the Thuringian Farmers' Association, agriculturalists set up hundreds of perches in their fields to lure birds of prey to kill the mice. But the operation was only moderately successful. "The birds got so fat from eating all the mice that they almost couldn't fly any more," Kopp said. "But they still couldn't keep up."

Farmers in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt say that other measures used to control pests -- such as placing poisoned bait at the entrances to their underground nests -- will not be sufficient either: The crops are now too tall to allow farmers to locate the nests.

Time for Tough Measures
Instead, agriculturalists want drastic action. They have requested permission to deploy a rat poison called Ratron. Farmers in Germany have been banned from using the poison on large areas since 2008. Ironically, it was the indiscriminate use of Ratron by farmers in Saxony-Anhalt that led the agency to ban it in the first place, after the poison killed wild geese and endangered European hamsters.

Whether or not their request will be granted remains to be seen. "The farmers have done everything that they can within the law," said Kopp. "Now we need more effective measures."

Not everyone is unhappy about the mouse plague, however. Birdwatchers are enjoying the increased sightings of rare owls hunting the rodents. "Normally the owl population in this region is next to nothing," said ornithologist Ubbo Mammen. "This is absolutely anomalous" (Spiegel, 2012)

Title: Superbugs Found In Chicken Causing Antibiotic-Resistant Bladder Infections Linked To Eight Million Women
Date: July 12, 2012
Daily Mail

Abstract: The roughly eight million women developing bladder infections in the United States every year may be getting a form of the illness resistant to antibiotics from the chicken they buy at the grocery store.

A strain of E.coli found in the DNA of chickens that were fed antibiotics while alive are being spread to humans, causing bladder infections that are extremely difficult to treat, according to researchers.

The drug-resistant bacterium called superbugs are found in everyday store-bought chicken across the U.S. and are being transmitted mostly to women in a number of ways from handling raw poultry or eating foods cross-contaminated with E.coli.

The poultry industry has refuted the research saying that the E.coli does not originate from chicken that are fed antibiotics.

The National Chicken Council said in a statement that changes to the use of antibiotics in poultry have no effect on the risks humans have to E.coli.

But in an ABC News report, researchers said the drug-resistant E.coli strain found in contaminated chicken match the bacteria found in patients with the urinary tract infections that were troublesome to treat.

About 80 per cent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to chicken for various reasons, including to ward off disease and for them to grow bigger.

Women are at a greater risk to develop this bacteria because they more commonly develop a bladder infection.

'We’re finding the same or related E. coli in human infections and in retail meat sources, specifically chicken,' Amee Manges, epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, told the news agency.

There has not been any specific study to prove the researchers' theory because it would mean purposely infecting healthy women.

People can avoid the illness by keeping kitchens and food clean and clear of contamination.

If a person has an ongoing bladder infection problem that doesn't go away, it may be a sign that a superbug is present.

A stronger antibiotic may be recommended for patients with a likely superbug infection, Besser said.

These types of bladder infections often become an ongoing burden for patients as it can take several different antibiotics to fight the superbugs.

Doctor Gigi El-Bayoumi told ABC News: 'They're super clever. They are very smart.'

The exact connection to the chicken people eat and bladder infections may be impossible to fully establish because it's not a typical food-related illness.

A person can eat chicken contaminated with the E.coli and develop symptoms of a bladder infection months later.

A superbug may have remained in an infected person's system the entire time, but it would be hard to clearly link the chicken to the illness at that point, said Richard Besser, medical editor at ABC News, during a broadcast (Daily Mail, 2012)

Title: Idaho Agriculture Officials Report Q Fever In Goat Herd
Date: June 18, 2012

Abstract: Two 
Idaho goats have tested positive for Q fever, a contagious bacteria of sheep, goats and cattle, which can be spread to humans.

According to an Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) news release Friday, the herd has been quarantined to prevent further spread of the disease.

The causative organism for Q fever is the bacteria, Coxiella burnetii, which has been known to cause abortion/stillbirths in livestock – typically goats, sheep and cattle.

Q fever is usually transmitted to people through either infected milk or through aerosols.

The symptoms of Q fever according to the CDC are an unexplained febrile illness, sometimes accompanied by pneumonia and/or hepatitis is the most common clinical presentation. Illness onset typically occurs within 2–5 weeks after exposure.

The mortality rate for acute Q fever is low (1–2%), and the majority of persons with mild illness recover spontaneously within a few weeks although antibiotic treatment will shorten the duration of illness and lessen the risk of complications. Chronic Q fever is uncommon (<1% of acutely infected patients) but may cause life-threatening heart valve disease (endocarditis).

ISDA encourages all livestock owners/handlers to be aware of the signs of illness and contact their veterinarian if animals display symptoms of Q fever. The best measures to prevent illness include, but are not limited to:

• Disinfect boots and clothing worn where animals have recently birthed. Wear masks
and gloves and immediately dispose of soiled bedding, placentas and aborted fetuses.
• Routine sanitation of all livestock facilities such as milk parlors, holding pens and birthing pens.
• Limit foot traffic to affected areas
• Individuals with weakened immune systems should avoid areas where infected animals have recently given birth
(Examiner, 2012).

Title: Nearly One-Third Of The Planet Is Affected By Roundworms: WHO
Date: July 2, 2012
Outbreak News

Abstract: The parasitic roundworms, also known as soil-transmitted helminths are a huge problem, impairing children physically, nutritionally and cognitively worldwide.

The parasites, transmitted to people through contaminated soil include the giant intestinal roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and the hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) Fact Sheet released Friday:

Approximately two billion people, or almost 29% of the world’s population are infected with soil-transmitted helminth infections worldwide. Soil-transmitted helminth infections are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas, with the greatest numbers occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and east Asia.

Over 270 million preschool-age children and over 600 million school-age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively transmitted, and are in need of treatment and preventive interventions.

Some of the soil-transmitted helminths (Ascaris and Trichuris) are transmitted by eggs that are passed in the feces of infected people. The worms produce thousands of eggs daily inside the infected individual, and without proper sanitation facilities, the eggs are excreted in the feces wherever  the person chooses to defecate.

This makes people, particularly children vulnerable to infection via contaminated soil, water or fruits and vegetables.

In the case of hookworms, the eggs hatch in the soil, releasing larvae that mature into a form that can actively penetrate the skin. People become infected with hookworm primarily by walking barefoot on the contaminated soil.

Illness depends on the worm burden. The more worms, the more serious the symptoms.

The WHO says  the heavier infections can cause a range of symptoms including intestinal manifestations (diarrhea, abdominal pain), general malaise and weakness, and impaired cognitive and physical development. Hookworms cause chronic intestinal blood loss that can result in anemia.

The worms can also have a detrimental nutritional effect because the worms feed on blood and other nutrients in the host and they can cause a loss of appetite and diarrhea.

The WHO’s strategy for control of these parasites include:

  • periodic drug treatment (deworming) without previous individual diagnosis to all at-risk people living in endemic areas. Treatment should be given once a year when the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth infections in the community is over 20%, and twice a year when the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth infections in the community is over 50%.
  • health and hygiene education reduces transmission and reinfection by encouraging healthy behaviors;
  • provision of adequate sanitation is also important but not always possible in resource-poor settings.
Albendazole (400 mg) and mebendazole (500 mg) are the WHO-recommended medicines; they are effective, cheap and have few side effects (Outbreak News, 2012).

Title: Lung Worm Infections On The Rise, CDC Says
Date: July 11, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: The number of U.S. infections from fluke worms in the lungs increased dramatically in 2009 and 2010, according to a new report, which traced the increase to the raw crawfish that people ate during recreational river trips.

Nine cases of paragonimiasis — the medical term for infections with the parasitic worms — were reported in or around Missouri in 2009 and 2010, after all of North America saw only seven cases in the previous 40 years, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

People become infected with the fluke worms by eating raw crawfish. Seven of the nine most recent cases occurred after people ate the crustaceans while on recreational river cruises.

Because fluke worm infections are typically very rare in the United States, where shellfish is generally cooked before it is consumed, diagnosing and treating the patients was difficult, the CDC researchers said. Cases of paragonimiasis are much more common in Asian countries. The initial symptoms include cough and fever, and the infections are often misdiagnosed as tuberculosis, pneumonia, flu or bronchitis.

Most of the nine U.S. parasiteDescription: cases were treated for another disease before the true cause of their illness was determined, according to the CDC report. Eight were men, and seven ate raw crawfish in conjunction with drinking alcohol.

All nine patients were eventually treated with the drug praziquantel, and seven of them recovered within three days. One patient experienced residual chest pain for four weeks, and recuperation was also slower for another patient, who had obstructive pulmonary disease.

Shellfish are the worms' hosts, and the prevalence of fluke-carrying shellfish in Missouri-area rivers makes trying to eliminate the parasite unfeasible, according to the report. Therefore, the public should be educated about the parasite and possible ways of becoming infected, and physicians should be more aware of the disease’s presence, the CDC said (Fox News, 2012).

Title: India: Man Has Tapeworm Larvae Removed From 'Voice Box'
Date: July 17, 2012

Abstract: An Indian man who suddenly suffered with severe pain in the throat and a loss of voice, was diagnosed with an unusual parasitic condition.

In a Times of India (TOI) report Tuesday, it is reported that upon examination at the Columbia Asia Hospital in Hebbal, physicians discovered a mass in his “voice box” caused by a cysticerci from the pork tapeworm,Taenia solium.

Dr. Santosh S. Consultant ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon at Columbia Asia Hospital said of the case, "What made the treatment challenging was the fact that the worm was lodged right in his voice box. He underwent a surgery last week; where by a team of specialists removed the worm after a 2-hours long procedure."

The patient is recovering well after the surgery. Astonished, the patient noted, “I was quite taken aback by the diagnosis, I never thought that my condition was a result of a tapeworm in my vocal cords."

Human cysticercosis occurs either by the direct transfer of Taenia solium eggs from the feces of people harboring an adult worm to their own mouth (autoinfection) or to the mouth of another individual, or indirectly by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the eggs. When the person ingests the eggs, the embryo escapes from the shell and penetrates the intestinal wall, gets into the blood vessels, where they spread to muscle, or more seriously, the eyes, heart or brain.

The larval stage of the tapeworm, or cysticercus, occurs the vast majority of the time (>85%) in the brain or eyes. However, they may migrate to other areas such as the liver, heart and striated muscles.

The case reported in the TOI above, is quite rare but oral cysticercosis is not unheard of. Cases of cysticercosis have been reported from the facetongue and vocal cords.

The severity of cystercercosis depends on which organs are infected and the number of cysticerci. An infection consisting of a few small cysticerci in the liver or muscles would likely result in no obvious disease and go unnoticed. Those that form in voluntary muscle tend to be asymptomatic, but may cause some pain. On the other hand, a few cysticerci, if located in a particularly "sensitive" area of the body, might result in irreparable damage.

For instance, a cysticercus in the eye might lead to blindness, or a cysticercus in the brain (neurocysticercosis) could lead to traumatic neurological damage, epileptic seizures or brain swelling that can kill.

Depending on the site of the cysticercosis, treatment may involve medications to kill the parasites (antiparasitic treatments such as albendazole or praziquantel), powerful anti-inflammatories (steroids) to reduce swelling and surgery to remove the infected area.

Prevention of cysticercosis includes adequate cooking of meat and washing fruits and vegetables well. Good hygiene and hand washing after using the toilet will prevent self-infection in a person already infected with tapeworms in addition to contamination of foodstuffs by human feces (Examiner, 2012).

Title: UF Veterinary Researchers Discover New Virus Linked To Death Of Australian Snakes
Date: July 19, 2012

University of Florida researcher and colleagues in Australia and Germany have discovered what might be a deadly new snake virus.

Dubbed the “Sunshine virus” because of its discovery in Australia’s Sunshine Coast region, the organism causes nervous system and respiratory disease and is the first of its kind to be identified. Although it is in the same overall family as other viruses that affect snakes and lizards, the Sunshine virus doesn’t fit into existing subgroups of viruses.

The discovery, described online and in the upcoming October 2012 print edition of the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution, might help scientists better understand the biology and origin of an important group of disease-causing organisms and inform efforts to prevent future outbreaks.

“Understanding the ecology and diversity of infectious diseases of wildlife is critical,” said co-author James Wellehan, an assistant professor of zoological medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. “While medicine has traditionally waited for big outbreaks to cause large numbers of deaths and then dealt with new diseases reactively, an understanding of what viruses are out there and how they can be expected to behave allows us to be proactive, being aware of and monitoring agents of potential concern.”

The emergence in recent years of deadly new viruses that attack humans has raised concerns regarding transmission between wildlife, livestock and humans. For example, the Hendra and Nipah viruses caused high rates of death in Australia and Indonesia in the 1990s, not just among horses and pigs but also among humans.

The quest to identify the new virus started as an investigation of the cause of a 2008 disease outbreak in a privately owned Australian collection of 70 pythons. As more and more animals became sick, showing signs of pneumonia, depression, lethargy and abnormal behavior such as “star gazing” — staring up at things — they were all eventually euthanized.

The researchers had great difficulty detecting the elusive virus and struggled to identify the category in which it belonged.

“We screened more than 450 samples, including swabs, tissues and blood for snake viruses,” said lead author Timothy Hyndman, a lecturer and graduate student at Murdoch University in Australia. “It was very frustrating. After two and a half years, we finally isolated something. A year later, we figured out what it was.”

The researchers infected snake heart cells with virus collected from tissues of the affected snakes and found that it caused the cells to become abnormally large and have more than one nucleus, the cell’s command center.

Using sophisticated techniques for analyzing large numbers of genetic sequences at the same time, the researchers identified several that had limited similarity to known viruses in large genetic databases. They used this information to put together the genetic blueprint of the Sunshine virus. Statistical analyses that allow construction of a “family tree” showed that the Sunshine virus belonged to a family called paramyxovirus. That family contains some of the most significant disease-causing agents in animals and humans, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Measles, mumps and canine distemper are all in the family.

But unlike all known snake and lizard viruses in that family, the new virus did not fit into a subgroup called ferlavirus. The new virus is only distantly related to those viruses.

“This is the first non-ferlavirus paramyxovirus to be discovered from a reptile,” Hyndman said. “In the previous 40 years, reptilian paramyxoviruses were all very similar until this one was discovered.”

Previously known members of the virus family have grouped into two subfamilies. The Sunshine virus fell outside both of those known groups. Inclusion of Sunshine virus in the family tree analysis showed that viruses thought to be in the same subfamilies might not actually share recent ancestors, the researchers said.

“The two subfamilies may need to be split up into distinct families,” Wellehan said.

Although it is likely that the virus was responsible for the outbreak of disease in the collection of pythons, that has not been proved irrefutably.

The study shows off how sophisticated gene sequencing technology can be used to characterize mysterious new viruses and possibly speed up public health responses to outbreaks in humans, animals and plants, the researchers said.

“This virus was invisible to prior technologies,” said Eric Delwart, director of molecular virology at the Blood Systems Research Institute and an adjunct professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. “Besides providing assays to help track and control outbreaks of this new snake virus, the study highlights the enhanced ability of scientists to rapidly identify novel pathogens” (UFL, 2012)

Title: CWD Found For First Time In Iowa
Date: July 20, 2012

Abstract: A white-tailed deer at a hunting preserve in Iowa has tested positive for chronic wasting disease – the first such case in Iowa.

Here’s more from an Iowa DNR news release:

The positive sample was verified this week, and DNR is working closely with the State Veterinarian on this isolated incident.

There is no evidence that CWD can spread to humans, pets or domestic livestock such as pork, beef, dairy, poultry, sheep or goats.

The Davis County facility where the animal was held has been inspected by the Iowa  DNR and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to ensure that any remaining deer remain contained.  The facility is surrounded by an 8-foot fence.  A quarantine has also been issued for the facility.

“Given all of Iowa’s surrounding states have confirmed cases of CWD, Iowa DNR was prepared to address this isolated incident,” said DNR Deputy Director Bruce Trautman.

The DNR and IDALS have a CWD response plan in place to address the disease.

“We have a CWD surveillance program in place to test deer, elk and moose at the facilities that raise farm deer and we have worked closely with DNR to plan for a possible finding of the disease,” said Iowa State Veterinarian Dr. David Schmitt.

Iowa has tested 42,557 wild deer and over 4,000 captive deer and elk as part of the surveillance program since 2002 when CWD was found in Wisconsin.

The DNR will increase testing of wild deer in the area by working with hunters and landowners to collect samples from hunter harvested deer beginning this fall.

CWD is a neurological disease that only affects deer, elk and moose.  It is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion, which affects the brains of infected animals, causing them to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head.  

The prions can attach to soil and spread the disease among deer. Chronic wasting disease was first identified in captive mule deer at a research facility in Colorado in 1967.  Prior to the positive detection in Iowa, CWD had been detected in every bordering state (StarTribune, 2012)

Title: Bangalore: 20 Sloth Bears Infected With TB
Date: July 23, 2012

Abstract: As many as 20 of the 23 sloth bears screened for medical examination have been found positive for tuberculosis. Nine bears have died of TB since January this year and the condition of another ten is said to be ‘critical.’ In total, 100 sloth bears are housed at the Bear Rescue Centre in Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) in Bangalore.

Human contact, lack of food and stress are the main reasons for these wild animals becoming victims of TB. Unfortunately, despite repeated medical tests, the bears show the symptoms of TB only when the disease aggravates. No specific kit has been designed anywhere in the world to detect TB in bears. Veterinary doctors are using the kit which has been designed for elephants.

Over the last one or two years, tuberculosis has become a major killer of bears, especially of those which have been rescued from Kalandars (bear charmers). Following complaints from animal lovers on torture of sloth bears by Kalandars, the Supreme Court directed the BBP authorities to open the Bear Rescue Centre to house all bears which have been rescued from various parts of the country. Last year, after some bears died of TB, experts from National TB Institute, Delhi and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Bio-Technology, Trivandrum, tested all bears which showed symptoms of TB. The experts were baffled after the medical test of some bears with symptoms of TB showed negative.

Wildlife Veterinary Officer, Bear Rescue Centre, BBP, Dr Arun told Express that a majority of bears are infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that also infects humans. So, the bears may have contracted TB because of constant interaction with people, he added. He also said that these bears were also taken to several places without food by the Kalandars. In the process they develop all kinds of infections. Another major hurdle in treating is that the age of these animals are not known as they were separated from their mother very early by charmers. Without proper age, medication is difficult as there are chances of overdose, he added.

Although the infected bears have been quarantined and treated, it is very difficult to say how long they will live. Unlike human beings, these bears show symptoms like absence of liquid from nostrils, fatigue and lack of activity only when the disease becomes serious. They stop taking food and face difficulty in breathing. Any treatment at this stage does not help. A post-mortem on one of the bears that died recently showed huge lumps of sputum in the lung. “The lumps of sputum makes it hard for the bear to breathe,” he said. He also informed that the authorities are planning another round of tests for all the bears of the rescue centre and will do whatever is possible to save them.

Executive director of BBMP Dr R Raju said that they are doing their best to save the bears from TB. The infected bears have been quarantined to contain the spread of TB. Extreme weather condition has also aggravated problems for these bears, he added (IBN Live, 2012).

Title: Health Officials: Kids, Pigs At LaPorte County Fair Ill From Same Virus
Date: July 24, 2012

Abstract: How would you feel if doctors diagnosed your child with a cough or a “
flu virus”, but instinct told you there was much more to it?  That's what happened to several LaPorte County parents whose kids got sick at the fair earlier this month, at the same time dozens of pigs became ill.  Turns out, lab results confirmed the pigs and kids were sick with the same rare virus.

The Indiana State Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and the USDA National Veterinary Services laboratory in Iowa found 4 people and all 12 randomly selected pigs from the LaPorte County Fair swine barn had what’s called influenza A (H3N2)v – a strain of influenza in the same family as swine flu.

However, that strain is so rare that before the recent LaPorte County outbreak, a release from ISDH to all Indiana health departments said only 13 reported cases of the strain have been reported in the United States in the past two years. 

But some LaPorte County parents whose children were sick are upset about how the local outbreak was handled.

It’s a July night at the fair Holly Hunt and her family won’t soon forget. 

“Me and my husband took [our 13-year-old daughter] to the emergency room and on the way from the campground to the hospital, she was almost unconscious,” Hunt recounted.  “I was slapping her face, asking her questions, trying to get her to stay awake.”

Once they arrived at the ER with Emma, who’d been taking care of her pigs in the swine barn, Hunt said she became even more alarmed by the reaction from doctors and nurses. 

“We told them we were in the swine barn and they immediately all put masks on, they started IVs in Emma and took blood cultures to be sent off.  It was just nerve wracking not knowing what was going on,” Hunt continued.

She wasn’t alone.  WSBT spoke with at least three other parents whose children also became ill at the fair with similar upper respiratory symptoms.  When members of the LaPorte County Fair Swine Committee checked the temperatures of all the pigs in the barn on July 13, 41 of the pigs had fevers so high that guidelines issued by the State Board of Animal Health kept them from being sold at the auction. 

But fair organizers didn’t quarantine the barn. 

“They really didn’t tell us anything,” Hunt said.  “They didn’t want anybody to know what was going on.”

Also on July 13, neither the LaPorte County Health Department nor the State Board of Animal Health knew humans were sick until WSBT called them.  They later launched a joint investigation into the human and swine illnesses.

“I’m angry now,” Hunt said, because she recently found out her daughter, at least two other children and one adult were officially diagnosed with influenza A (H3N2)v – the same virus all the tested pigs had.

“I got a $2,700 emergency room bill where they tested [Emma] for everything from a pregnancy test down to a cocaine test.  Yeah, I have insurance but why should I have to pay for something that's not my fault?  Our pigs weren't sick, the kids' pigs were sold fine, they never ran a fever,” she explained. 

The state and LaPorte County Health Departments said they are still investigating, trying to find out if more people were sick.  State Health Department Epidemiologist Pam Pontones declined to tell WSBT how many humans had been tested for the H3N2v virus. 

WSBT spoke with several parents off camera who said at least a dozen children who had similar symptoms as the pigs and other sick children were treated at local hospitals and doctor’s offices. 

However, it’s important to note that pork is safe to eat because this virus is not transmitted into food, said Indiana State Board of Animal Health Public Information Director Denise Derrer. 

Pigs have had various strains of flu circulating since the 1930s, she added, but what made this illness unusual was the fact that the same strain of the virus affected both animals and humans at the same time.   

St. Joseph County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Felger said H3N2v is a relatively new strain of influenza health officials are still trying to learn about.

“This is extremely rare,” Felger said.  “That's why there's not a lot of answers because there's not a lot of data.”

Felger stressed that humans have a very low risk of getting sick from it. 

“It’s impossible to say that there's no risk, but again it's extremely low and again, 13 cases in 2 years means it's not very contagious,” he added. 

To avoid getting sick from something such as H3N2v, a news release from the ISDH suggests washing your hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal.  Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in animal areas.  Older adults, pregnant women,  young children and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals (WSBT News, 2012)

Title: Emergence Of Fatal Avian Influenza In New England Harbor Seals
Date: July 31, 2012

Abstract: From September to December 2011, 162 New England harbor seals died in an outbreak of pneumonia. Sequence analysis of postmortem samples revealed the presence of an avian H3N8 influenza A virus, similar to a virus circulating in North American waterfowl since at least 2002 but with mutations that indicate recent adaption to mammalian hosts. These include a D701N mutation in the viral PB2 protein, previously reported in highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza viruses infecting people. Lectin staining and agglutination assays indicated the presence of the avian-preferred SA
α-2,3 and mammalian SAα-2,6 receptors in seal respiratory tract, and the ability of the virus to agglutinate erythrocytes bearing either the SAα-2,3 or the SAα-2,6 receptor. The emergence of this A/harbor seal/Massachusetts/1/2011 virus may herald the appearance of an H3N8 influenza clade with potential for persistence and cross-species transmission.

The emergence of new strains of influenza virus is always of great public concern, especially when the infection of a new mammalian host has the potential to result in a widespread outbreak of disease. Here we report the emergence of an avian influenza virus (H3N8) in New England harbor seals which caused an outbreak of pneumonia and contributed to a U.S. federally recognized unusual mortality event (UME). This outbreak is particularly significant, not only because of the disease it caused in seals but also because the virus has naturally acquired mutations that are known to increase transmissibility and virulence in mammals. Monitoring the spillover and adaptation of avian viruses in mammalian species is critically important if we are to understand the factors that lead to both epizootic and zoonotic emergence (mBio, 2012)

Title: Flu That Leapt From Birds To Seals Is Studied For Human Threat
Date: July 31, 2012
New York Times

Abstract: Four times in the past century, a new strain of flu has emerged that can spread quickly in humans. One of those strains, which emerged in 1918, killed an estimated 50 million people.

All human flu strains evolved from flu viruses that live in birds. To understand how these transitions happen, scientists have recently been tinkering with a strain of bird flu to see how many mutations it takes until its spreads from mammal to mammal.

When news of their efforts emerged last fall, a fierce debate broke out about the wisdom of publishing the experiments in full.

Eventually, the scientists got the go-ahead from a federal advisory board, and earlier this year they described how a few mutations of a strain called H5N1 enabled it to spread among ferrets. But the controversy still rages: Responding to worries about an accidental release of an engineered virus, leading flu scientists agreed in January to a moratorium on further research, and experts are debating when it should be lifted.

Scientists may respect moratoriums, but nature does not. Evolution recently carried out an influenza experiment of its own on the coast of New England. Last fall, 162 dead harbor seal pups washed up on the beaches of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal mBio, a team of scientists reports that the pups were killed by a new strain of influenza. Their research indicates that the virus evolved from bird flu, gaining the ability to spread from seal to seal — a real-life example of the transformation that scientists have been exploring in their labs.

“It’s a beautiful study,” said Eddie Holmes, an expert on flu evolution at Penn State who was not involved in the research. He praised the scientists’ speed in identifying the new virus and convincingly tying it to the seal die-off.

Dr. Holmes believes the new virus needs to be carefully monitored to see what sort of threat, if any, it poses. “The question mark is what it means for seals, and what it means for us,” he said.

Waterfowl like ducks and geese carry a wide range of flu strains. These bird flu viruses sometimes infect mammals, but they rarely, if ever, spread from one mammal to the next.

Since 2003, H5N1, the most worrisome subtype of bird flu, has spread across Asia and Africa. But hospitals have recorded only 607 cases of H5N1 infection in humans.

In rare cases, a bird flu virus strain gains the mutations necessary to multiply quickly inside a mammal and spread to others. Flu viruses have adapted to several mammal species, including pigs, dogs and horses.

In September 2011, beachgoers noticed dead seal pups on New Hampshire beaches. “Surfers were surfing into seals floating in the water,” said Katie Pugliares, a senior biologist with the New England Aquarium’s rescue program.

Unlike typical seal cadavers, the seals were not malnourished, suggesting they had died suddenly.

An examination of tissues from the seals pointed to a respiratory infection. To identify the pathogen, tissue samples from five pups were sent to the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. Simon Anthony, a postdoctoral researcher at the center, led a search for viral genes in the tissue.

Within 24 hours, Dr. Anthony and his colleagues had discovered that all five seals carried an influenza virus. There have been a few documented flu outbreaks in seals, the most recent having hit in 1992. As far as scientists can tell, these outbreaks came directly from birds; the virus could not spread from mammal to mammal.

Within another 24 hours, the researchers had determined that the virus was a strain of the flu never seen in seals. The virus belongs to a flu subtype known as H3N8. H3N8 viruses have crossed over from birds to dogs and horses several times since 1960.

Dr. Anthony and his colleagues found flu genes at high concentrations in the lining of the seals’ airways. From such evidence, the scientists concluded that H3N8, no innocent bystander, had killed the seals.

“Now we have a nice legal case against this virus,” said W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and an author of the study.

The scientists then searched for the origin of the seal virus. Its closest relative is a virus isolated in Ohio in 2002 from a species of duck called the blue-winged teal.

They identified 37 mutations that set the seal virus apart from bird flu. A number of the mutations have been previously documented as important for flu viruses to adapt to mammal hosts.

A new strain that can spread among seals is a reason for serious concern, Dr. Anthony said. “What we fear is that it would allow the virus to persist within the seal population,” he said. “And if it persists, who knows what other changes may accumulate over time?”

“If it adapts better to mammal hosts, it may well start to move into humans,” Dr. Lipkin said. “This is clearly a virus for which we need some surveillance.”

Pigs, Dr. Lipkin noted, are especially good at producing new flu strains because they can be infected by bird flu and mammal flu at the same time. Two kinds of virus can combine, giving rise to new hybrid strains.

Dr. Lipkin and his colleagues found evidence that seal cells can also be invaded by both kinds of viruses — raising the possibility that they could produce new hybrid flu strains as well.

“It could be the equivalent of an aquatic pig,” Dr. Lipkin said.

Dr. Holmes wanted to see more evidence for the idea that flu viruses can mix in seals. He also pointed out that H3N8 has never crossed from dogs or horses to people.

“Just because we find a seal with mammal-adapted H3N8 does not mean we’re going to get a human pandemic,” Dr. Holmes said. “At the moment, it’s hard to say what the threat really is.”

Still, Dr. Pugliares will be on the lookout for a new outbreak in September on the beaches of New England. And she and her colleagues will be taking extra precautions with any seals that show signs of the flu.

“We are going to definitely step it up a notch,” she said (New York Times, 2012)

Title: A Bird Flu Spreads In Seals. Could Humans Be Next?
Date: July 31, 2012

Abstract: Last fall, 162 harbor seal pups mysteriously washed up dead on the shores of 
New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Puzzled, scientists conducted autopsies on five of the animals, which suggested that a respiratory infection had killed them. Samples of the seals’ tissue were then analyzed further and a common virus was discovered: a new strain of influenza that appeared to have evolved from H3N8, a bird flu virus first isolated in North American ducks in 2002.

The virus’ potential leap from birds to mammals raises questions about whether it could jump to humans as well. Avian flu viruses have spread to humans before — notably H5N1, the scariest type. But while H5N1 spreads easily among birds, often killing them, it infects humans only rarely, though when it does, it’s highly lethal: since 2003, there have been 607 cases of human H5N1 worldwide, leading to 358 deaths.

In late 2011, an even scarier development: researchers in the U.S. and the Netherlands announced that they’d managed to create mutated strains of deadly H5N1 in their labs that passed easily between mammals, developments that led to fierce debate over the wisdom of publishing the findings (the fear was that the data could be dangerous in a bioterrorist’s hands) and to a moratorium on all further research. (Eventually, a federal advisory board allowed the two scientific teams to publish their findings in Nature and in Science, but the moratorium remains.)

Meanwhile, it seems that Mother Nature has been tinkering too. Researchers, 
reporting in the journal mBio, found that the new seal virus was distinct from H3N8 by 37 mutations, some of which have been previously identified as being necessary for flu to adapt to mammals. The new strain, being called seal H3N8, evolved the ability to spread from seal to seal, killing them; bird flu has been found in seals before, but it hasn’t spread between the animals. “[H3N8 is] something that’s been circulating for a while in birds, but we’ve not had this sort of die-off relating to this virus in the past,” study author and virus expert Dr. Ian Lipkin of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University told the BBC.

The authors say the new virus has mutations that allow it to live in both birds as well as mammals. It has also evolved to make it more likely to cause severe symptoms, and has the ability to target a protein found in the human respiratory tract, the BBC reports. Although birds carry a wide variety of flu viruses, which sometimes make the jump into mammals, they almost never acquire the ability to spread from mammal to mammal.

The worry is that if the new virus continues to adapt and thrive in seals, it will acquire other mutations that could make it likely to pass to humans. Further, the scientists’ study of seal cells found that they have receptors for both bird and mammalian flu viruses, making the animals a potentially good host for flu viruses to mix, evolve and learn how to adapt to other hosts. Pigs also have this hosting ability, which is why they’re known for giving rise to new hybrid flu strains — such as H1N1, the “swine flu” of 2009 — that infect humans.

The seal “could be the equivalent of an aquatic pig,” Lipkin told the New York Times, noting that the new seal H3N8 virus is “clearly a virus for which we need some surveillance.”

It’s still not clear what exactly the findings mean for seals or humans, but the authors conclude that the natural emergence of a virus that can be transmitted between mammals and that was discovered in a mammal that can be infected with multiple flu viruses “must be considered a significant threat to both wildlife and public health.”

In any case, the discovery of the new virus is a reminder that we need to step up our efforts to monitor potential new pandemics and prepare for them. “It’s important to realize that viruses can emerge through routes that we haven’t considered. We need to be alert to those risks and ready to act on them,” said study editor Anne Moscona of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, in a statement (TIME, 2012)

Title: New Avian Flu Virus Jumps From Birds To Mammals, Kills New England's Baby Seals
Date: July 31, 2012

Abstract: A novel avian influenza virus has acquired the ability to infect aquatic mammals and was responsible for an outbreak of fatal pneumonia that recently struck harbor seals in New England, according to scientists at the Center for Infection & Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, New England Aquarium, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, SeaWorld and EcoHealth Alliance.

This research is published in mBio. Wildlife officials first became concerned in September 2011, when seals with severe pneumonia and skin lesions suddenly appeared along the coastline from southern Maine to northern Massachusetts.

Most were infants (less than 6 months), and a total of 162 dead or moribund seals were recovered over the next 3 months. Pathogen screening was conducted in a subset of afflicted seals, using sensitive diagnostic tools developed at the CII, and a new strain of avian H3N8 influenza virus was identified as a culprit.

"When initial tests revealed an avian influenza virus, we asked the obvious question: how did this virus jump from birds to seals?" says Simon Anthony, D.Phil, postdoctoral research scientist at the CII and the lead author of the study. Based on full genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, seal H3N8 descended from an avian strain that has been circulating in North American waterfowl since 2002, which implies recent transmission from wild birds to seals.

Accordingly, seal H3N8 has acquired the ability to bind sialic acid receptors that are commonly found in the mammalian respiratory tract. Mutations in the HA and PB2 genes – required for cell entry and replication, respectively – suggest enhanced virulence and transmission in mammals, but these putative attributes require further investigation. Given these findings along with the long history of the spread of avian influenza to humans—most notably H1N1 and H5N1—seal H3N8 could pose a threat to public health.

"Our findings reinforce the importance of wildlife surveillance in predicting and preventing pandemics, says W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, at the Mailman School of Public Health. "HIV/AIDS, SARS, West Nile, Nipah and influenza are all examples of emerging infectious diseases that originated in animals. Any outbreak of disease in domestic animals or wildlife, while an immediate threat to wildlife conservation, must also be considered potentially hazardous to humans"
(MedicaXpress, 2012)

Title: Bird Flu Not Responsible For Alaska Ice Seal, Walrus Illness
Date: August 1, 2012
Alaska Public

Abstract: Scientists say a type of bird flu – H3N8 – is responsible for the death of the more than 160 harbor seals on the East Coast. Reports of sick seals began in September, which coincided with the reports of diseased seals in Alaska’s northern coasts. KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen reports there is no relation between the avian flu on the East Coast and the disease affecting iced seals and walrus in Alaska
(Alaska Public, 2012)

Title: New Virus Related To Deadly Hendra And Nipah Viruses Found In Black Flying Foxes At Cedar Grove Near Beaudesert
Date: August 3, 2012
Herald Sun

Abstract: A new virus closely related to the deadly Hendra and Nipah viruses has been found in black flying foxes at Cedar Grove near Beaudesert.

The find by CSIRO and Biosecurity Queensland has excited scientists because it could help them unravel secrets of Hendra and Nipah viruses.

The viruses kill more than 70 per cent of humans and animals they infect, yet little is known about how they interact with their hosts.

There are no concerns about the new virus infecting humans, although it can't be ruled out.

Gary Crameri, a CSIRO virologist at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, said bats carried more viruses than other species, perhaps because they were such a broad group of ancient mammals, ranging from micro-bats weighing a few grams to large flying foxes that lived in many different environments.

Scientists were intrigued why they could carry deadly viruses but not become diseased themselves. If this could be worked out, bats could provide humankind with medicines to fight viruses and help weakened immune systems.

"They're an incredibly important group of animals and the risk of the virus spilling over to humans is incredibly low," Mr Crameri said. "Even if it did, it might go unnoticed - perhaps like a gentle cold. All experiments indicate Cedar's nowhere near as deadly as Hendra."

Named for where it was found, the Cedar virus had not caused illness in tests on mice, guinea pigs and ferrets which were susceptible to Hendra and Nipah.

Cedar had caused mild infections in laboratory animals but no signs of disease.

A survey of flying foxes showed 25 per cent had antibodies to Cedar, a similar number to that seen with Hendra.

Researchers were investigating how the virus might impact on domestic animals, including livestock.

Its discovery would have no impact on the development of a Hendra horse vaccine (Herald Sun, 2012)

Title: Beware At Fair: New Flu Virus Can Pass From Pigs To People
Date: August 3, 2012
USA Today

Abstract: A cluster of flu cases linked to contact with pigs has doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning people to wash up and avoid eating around animals as they attend county and state fairs. 

The new influenza strain sickened at least 12 people last week. All cases involved recent contact with pigs at agricultural fairs. Hawaii and Indiana each has one case, and 10 were linked to last week's Butler County Fair in Ohio. Four other cases have been linked to a county fair in Indiana that ran July 8-14. None resulted in hospitalization or death.

The new flu goes by the name influenza A (H3N2) variant, or H3N2v, and was first identified in humans a year ago, says Joseph Bresee of the CDC Influenza Division. Of the 29 cases that have been reported so far, 80% "had swine contact before getting ill and most of that contact was at county fairs," he said.

The flu is clinically identical to the regular seasonal flu, with fever, cough, sore throat and body aches. H3N2v is not a food-borne illness, Bresee says. You can't get it from eating pork. But you can get it from being around sick pigs.

To avoid H3N2v, people attending agricultural fairs and other events involving swine should take these precautions, CDC says:

1. Wash hands with soap and water before and after exposure to animals.

2. Avoid eating, drinking or putting anything in the mouth in animal areas.

3. Don't take food or drink into animal areas.

4. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses should avoid exposure to animal areas.

5. If you develop flu symptoms after attending an agricultural fair, tell your doctor.

6. Avoid sick pigs.

How do you know whether a pig is sick? Look for "a pig that's got a runny nose, goop in their eyes or they're standing away from other pigs in the enclosure," says Lisa Ferguson, a veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture's National Animal Health Policy Program.

The newly evolved virus isn't considered highly pathogenic. Of the 29 people who've had it since it was first identified, only three were hospitalized and both had underlying illnesses that made them more susceptible to the flu. Influenza is a very changeable disease, with the human form evolving yearly and requiring new vaccines. Flu in animals is much the same, with the CDC typically finding between one and seven new animal flu variants a year, Bresee says.

Scientists believe the H3N2 influenza virus, which is commonly found in pigs, managed to add a gene from the H1N1 flu virus that caused a world-wide pandemic among humans in 2009. That gene made it easier for the virus to be transmitted from pigs to people.

The good news is that although the new flu variant seems to move more easily between pigs and humans, it doesn't move easily between people. "Because influenza viruses are always evolving, we'll watch closely to see if the virus has gained the capacity for efficient human to human transmission," Bresee says. "So far we haven't see that."

H3N2v is different enough from seasonal human flu that flu vaccine won't provide protection, he said. A possible human vaccine for H3N2v has been prepared, and clinical trails are being planned for this year (USA Today, 2012).

Title: CDC: 158 Cases Of New Swine Flu Strain From Pigs
Date: August 9, 2012

Abstract: Don't pet the pigs.

That's the message state and county fair visitors got Thursday from health officials who reported a five-fold increase of cases of a new strain of swine flu that spreads from pigs to people. Most of the cases are linked to the fairs, where visitors are in close contact with infected pigs.

This flu has mild symptoms and it's not really spreading from person to person.

"This is not a pandemic situation," said Dr. Joseph Bresee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But any flu can be a risk for some people, and people should be cautious when they can, he added.

The case count jumped from 29 a week ago to 158 this week, thanks to a wave of new cases in Indiana and Ohio, said Bresee, the agency's chief of influenza epidemiology.

Most of the infected patients are children - probably because many were working closely with raising, displaying and visiting pigs at the agricultural fairs, Bresee said.

The recent cases include at least 113 in Indiana, 30 in Ohio, one in Hawaii and one in Illinois, Bresee said in a conference call with reporters.

The count is changing rapidly. Indiana health officials on Thursday afternoon said they had seven more confirmed cases than Bresee noted. That would raise the grand total to 165 so far.

Also, diagnosis of cases has become quicker in the last week. CDC no longer must confirm a case with its own lab. Now states are using CDC test kits to confirm cases on their own on, speeding the process along. The newly reported cases were likely infected a week or two ago.

The CDC has been tracking cases since last summer. A concern: The new strain has a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.

The good news is the flu does not seem to be unusually dangerous. Almost all the illnesses have been mild and no one has died. Two of the recent cases were hospitalized, but both recovered and were discharged, Bresee said.

More good news is that all of the recent cases appear to have spread from pigs to humans, meaning it's not very contagious, at least between people. But there probably will be more cases in the weeks ahead, and it won't be surprising if at least a few of them involve person-to-person transmission, Bresee said.

Pigs spread flu virus just like people do, with coughing, sneezing and runny noses, so people can get it by touching pigs or being near them.

Health officials don't think it's necessary to cancel swine shows, but are urging people to take precautions.

Fairgoers should wash their hands and avoid taking food and drinks into livestock barns, officials said, while pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should be particularly careful (AP, 2012)

Title: Swine Influenza: New Cases Spread From Pigs To People
Date: August 10, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: Health officials reported a five-fold increase of cases of a new strain of swine flu that spreads from pigs to people. Most of the cases are linked to the fairs, where visitors are in close contact with infected pigs.

This flu has mild symptoms and it's not really spreading from person to person.

"This is not a pandemic situation," said Dr. Joseph Bresee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But any flu can be a risk for some people, and people should be cautious when they can, he added.

The case count jumped from 29 a week ago to 158 this week, thanks to a wave of new cases in Indiana and Ohio, said Bresee, the agency's chief of influenza epidemiology.

Most of the infected patients are children — probably because many were working closely with raising, displaying and visiting pigs at the agricultural fairs, Bresee said.

The recent cases include at least 113 in Indiana, 30 in Ohio, one in Hawaii and one in Illinois, Bresee said in a conference call with reporters.

The count is changing rapidly. Indiana health officials on Thursday afternoon said they had seven more confirmed cases than Bresee noted. That would raise the grand total to 165 so far.

Also, diagnosis of cases has become quicker in the last week. CDC no longer must confirm a case with its own lab. Now states are using CDC test kits to confirm cases on their own on, speeding the process along. The newly reported cases were likely infected a week or two ago.

The CDC has been tracking cases since last summer. A concern: The new strain has a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.

The good news is the flu does not seem to be unusually dangerous. Almost all of the illnesses have been mild and no one has died. Two of the recent cases were hospitalized, but both recovered and were discharged, Bresee said.

More good news is that all of the recent cases appear to have spread from pigs to humans, meaning it's not very contagious, at least between people. But there probably will be more cases in the weeks ahead, and it won't be surprising if at least a few of them involve person-to-person transmission, Bresee said.

Pigs spread flu virus just like people do, with coughing, sneezing and runny noses, so people can get it by touching pigs or being near them.

Health officials don't think it's necessary to cancel swine shows, but are urging people to take precautions.

Fairgoers should wash their hands and avoid taking food and drinks into livestock barns, officials said, while pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should be particularly careful (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Washoe County Issues Hand-Foot-Mouth Alert
Date: August 14, 2012
RGJ News

Abstract: Washoe County’s health and school districts sent out alerts Monday night about an outbreak of a rare new hand, foot and mouth disease, which can be passed easily from children to adults.

More than 400 self-reported cases of Coxsackie A6, which arrived in the U.S. in December, have been received by the health district in 2012.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that predominantly affects children 5 and younger.

The health district sent its first alert March 30 when there were about 30 cases of the unusual Coxsackie A6, which included six adults.

Some of the symptoms include a rash that may appear as small pimply sores at first progressing to larger sores (some fluid filled) that scab over after a day or two, according to the health district’s website.

The sores do not usually itch but can be painful as they emerge and may appear on parts of the body other than the hands, feet or mouth, including groin, buttocks, torso, arms and face. Sores in the mouth and/or throat may cause loss of appetite and/or dehydration.

“This strain is not just on the hands, feet and mouth,” said Phil Ulibarri, public information officer for the health district. “It’s also seen on the elbow, the knees, the arms, buttocks, legs and in the genital area.”

Ulibarri said the Coxsackie A6 strain also can cause finger and toe nail shedding after other symptoms subside.

The school district sent a message to parents via its ConnectEd automated phone system at the request of the health district.

It asked parents to familiarize themselves with the information so that if their child developed symptoms consistent with this strain, they will be prepared with the information needed to stop its spread.

“We want kids to stay home until the sores dry up or scab over,” Ulibarri said. “We don’t want to see people having person to person contact if they’re still contagious.”

He said with children, especially younger children, the disease can spread as they share objects, such as toys, eating utensils and cups.

Dana Balchunas, director of the school district’s student health services, said it began sending literature to the school nurses and other staff at the end of last school year. It was sending another round of alerts in advance of the traditional school year beginning Aug. 27, he said.

“We communicate with nurses what they should look for, and they in turn tell the principals and teachers,” Balchunas said. “It’s an ongoing process.”

Some of the year-round schools have reported cases of students with the virus, she said.

“It’s not a high number of reports from schools,” Balchunas said.

The health district says that a student must be kept home until there are no new sores for two days, all sores are dry or scabbed over, and no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.

A person infected should rest, take food and fluids as they are able, use fever reducing medications appropriately and consult a physician if needed. With no treatment or vaccine for the disease, the best defense is prevention (RGJ News, 2012).

Title: Zebra Herpes Virus Kills Zoo Polar Bears
Date: August 16, 2012

Abstract: When the polar bears started dying, nobody suspected the zebras. Jerka was the first. The 20-year-old polar bear 
was born in captivity, and had lived in Germany’s Wuppertal Zoo since the age of two. In the summer of 2010, she started suffering from epileptic seizures and eight days later, on the 16th of June, she finally passed away. Lars, a male bear who lived in the same enclosure, also became seriously ill. He was hooked up to an IV drip and treated with anti-seizure medicine. It took several weeks, but he eventually made a full recovery.

When the zookeepers dissected Jerka’s body, they found signs of inflammation in her brain. The pattern of damage pointed to a viral infection, but no one knew which virus was responsible. A team of scientists led by Alex Greenwood from the Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research searched Jerka’s brain tissue for the genetic material of many possible viruses, from rabies to canine distemper virus. They found only one hit, and it looked a lot like EHV1 – a virus that infects horses.

EHV1, or equine abortion virus, is a herpesvirus that’s related to the ones that cause herpes and chickenpox in humans. It affects the lungs, airways and brains of horses and donkeys, and it’s widespread among zoo zebras. Greenwood thinks that the virus probably jumped into Jerka from Wuppertal’s zebras, but it’s not clear how this happened since the zebras live 68 metres away from the bears and never came into direct contact. Maybe the zookeepers ferried the virus between them, or perhaps rodents did by sneaking in and out of the two enclosures.

The virus that killed Jerka wasn’t a pure strain of EHV1. One of its genes contained DNA from a close relative called EHV9. It’s what is known as a “recombinant virus”. At some point, EHV1 and EHV9 infected the same zebra and fused to form a hybrid virus that went on to infect both Jerka and Lars.

This isn’t the first time that EHV1 has caused problems in zoos. In another German zoo, it killed four black bears. In yet another, it finished off two Thomson’s gazelles and 18 guinea pigs, all from brain damage.  Meanwhile, EHV9 killed a polar bear at San Diego zoo, which had been housed around 200 feet away from a herd of Grevy’s zebras. These catholic tastes are unusual, especially since herpesviruses usually stick to one specific host.

To make things worse, herpesviruses can infect hosts without any of the obvious symptoms that killed Jerka and sickened Lars. Greenwood found that another polar bear called Struppo, who died of an unrelated kidney disease in 2006, was also infected with EHV1. His strain was identical to Jerka’s strain, albeit without the extra fragment of EHV9 DNA. He was also only carrying the virus in his blood rather than his brain, which may explain why he never developed any fatal symptoms.

So, we don’t know how common EHV1 and EHV9 are among captive animals, how they spread, or how to control them. All we know is that they can infect mammals from at least five distinct groups. That spells big trouble for zoos, which offer up a platter of new and unexpected hosts to these promiscuous viruses.

Greenwood’s study highlights one of the many problems that zoos face. By bringing together animals from different continents and habitats, they create breeding grounds for new viruses that could undo the zoos’ valuable conservation work (Discovery, 2012)

Title: Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus Infections In Employees Of A Rodent Breeding Facility
Date: August 17, 2012

Abstract: In late April 2012, an infectious disease physician contacted CDC regarding a patient with aseptic meningitis who worked at a rodent breeding facility in Indiana. Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection was suspected, and LCMV-specific antibody was detected in blood and cerebrospinal fluid from the patient, confirming the diagnosis. LCMV is an arenavirus carried by the common house mouse. Persons become infected through close contact with infected rodents, through infected organ transplantation, or from mother to fetus. In immunocompetent adults, symptoms can range from mild febrile illness to meningeal symptoms (e.g., headache, stiff neck, or sensitivity to light). Congenitally infected infants can have a range of severe birth defects including hydrocephalus, chorioretinitis, blindness, and mental retardation (1). Infections in organ recipients, who are immunosuppressed, can have a case-fatality rate approaching 90% (2).

CDC notified the Indiana State Department of Health of a potential outbreak of LCMV infection at the rodent breeding facility and subsequently notified county health officials and the Indiana Board of Animal Health. A serosurvey was performed; 52 current and former employees of the facility consented to serum testing. Of the 52 tested, 13 (25%) demonstrated recent LCMV infection as evidenced by the prescence of immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Nine employees who showed laboratory evidence of recent exposure reported experiencing a clinical illness consistent with LCMV; symptoms ranged from severe influenza-like illness to meningeal symptoms that required hospitalization. Of the persons experiencing illness, 89% were male; ages ranged from 20 to 48 years. No employees, including those not tested, were known to be pregnant at the time of the serosurvey. All employees who experienced clinical illness have since recovered. Three additional employees had evidence of a previous LCMV infection, with detectable anti-LCMV IgG and no IgM.

The rodent facility bred and raised mice and rats for sale as live and frozen feeder animals for reptiles or birds of prey. The facility housed approximately 155,000 adult mice and 14,000 adult rats. A representative sample of healthy-appearing adult rodents was tested for evidence of LCMV infection by ELISA and polymerase chain reaction. Of 1,421 mice tested, 296 (20.8%) had detectable anti-LCMV IgG, and 10 (0.7%) had detectable LCMV RNA. Of 399 rats tested, none were positive by ELISA or polymerase chain reaction. All living mice at the facility were euthanized. All rodents remaining in cold storage at the time of diagnosis also were disposed of in accordance with local environmental regulations. The buildings and equipment housing the mice were cleaned and disinfected. Used litter and contaminated feed were disposed of in accordance with local environmental regulations. Live mice distributed from the facility before the LCMV diagnosis currently are being followed to the point of purchase through an ongoing investigation.

Any persons with direct or indirect contact with these animals should be made aware of the public health risk and should seek medical evaluation if they have had any recent illness. Pregnant women or immunocompromised persons should be cautioned to avoid contact with rodents in general. Wild mice in the United States have a prevalence of LCMV estimated at 3.9%–13.4% (3). Any additional rodent populations that have come into direct contact with potentially infected mice should be depopulated.

Employers of rodent breeding facilities of all kinds should make their employees aware that working with rodents can expose them to LCMV and should educate workers regarding risks for exposure, including potential health effects. Employers also should work with their local health departments to develop guidance material on disease prevention and provide the recommended personal protective equipment for employees. Routine serologic testing of rodents can be used to detect and control LCMV infections. Evidence of LCMV infection in rodents should be dealt with promptly to prevent human illness from occurring. Purchasers of frozen rodents used to feed another pet should be reminded to always wear plastic gloves when handling the rodents and to wash their hands afterward (CDC, 2012).

Title: Plague Confirmed In Palomar Mountain Squirrels
Date: August 23, 2012

Abstract: Health officials are advising campers and hikers in the Palomar Mountains to take precautions to protect themselves from exposure to squirrels after three ground squirrels tested positive for the bacterium that causes 

According to a County of San Diego news release Wednesday, officials said the squirrels represented a low risk of transmission because their blood tests showed their exposure to the bacteria was not recent, and because they did not carry large numbers of the fleas that could transmit the disease.

The squirrels that tested positive were trapped at two different campgrounds; Cedar Grove and Doane Valley.

Jack Miller, director of the County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) advises campers and hikers to avoid coming into contact with squirrels by ensuring tents are set up away from squirrel burrows and telling your children of the importance of not playing with squirrels.

Other advise given by health officials include keeping pets on a leash or leaving them home and do not touch or handle sick or dead animals.

The DEH posted warning signs in areas where rodents test positive for plague.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium,Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. In this form, the bacteria typically enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes. Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time.

Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough (Examiner, 2012).

Title: Yosemite Officials Say 1,700 Visitors Risk Rare Rodent Disease
Date: August 28, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: The rustic tent cabins of Yosemite National Park -- a favorite among families looking to rough it in one of the nation's most majestic settings -- have become the scene of a public health crisis after two visitors died from a rodent-borne disease following overnight stays.

On Tuesday, park officials sent letters and emails to 1,700 visitors who stayed in some of the dwellings in June, July and August, warning them that they may have been exposed to the disease that also caused two other people to fall ill.

Those four people contracted hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after spending time in one of the 91 "Signature Tent Cabins" at Curry Village around the same time in June. The illness is spread by contact with rodent feces, urine and saliva, or by inhaling exposed airborne particles.

After the first death, the park sanitized the cabins and alerted the public through the media that the cause might have been diseased mice in the park.

However, officials did not know for sure the death was linked to Yosemite or the campsite until the Centers for Disease Control determined over the weekend that a second visitor, a resident of Pennsylvania, also had died.

After every park tragedy, officials stress that Yosemite is a wilderness area and with it come some dangers.

"We're very concerned about visitors and employees," park spokesman Scott Gediman said. "But we feel we are taking proactive steps in both cleaning the affected areas and in public education. But it's absolutely impossible to eliminate all risk."

On Sunday night, health officials with the National Park Service sent out an alert asking public health authorities to be on the watch for more potential rodent-related cases of acute respiratory failure.

Yosemite receives 4 million tourists a year from around the world, and national park officials were trying to determine if the warning should be expanded to include foreign countries.

"We're discussing whether to do that and how to do that," said Dr. David Wong, chief of the epidemiology branch of the National Park Service Office of Public Health.

The disease can incubate for up to six weeks before flu-like symptoms develop. It's fatal in 30 percent of all cases, and there is no specific treatment. It is not spread human-to-human.

Wong said the Yosemite cases are unusual because hantavirus illnesses are most often isolated events.

"We are seeing more than one person who got it in a narrow space and time," he said. "It makes us wonder why, and those are questions we don't have the answers to."

All the victims stayed in the cabins between June 10 and June 20, and all four known cases were contracted by people who stayed within 100 feet of each other but not necessarily in the same cabins.

The National Park Service currently has assigned two epidemiologists to work in the park trapping rodents for testing. Additional studies are being done to determine if the Yosemite rodent population is higher than normal after a record snowpack in 2011 provided ample water for the grass seeds mice favor.

"Rodents and mice are native to the park, but we are looking at the populations and working with our wildlife biologists to determine if the population is too high," Gediman said. "There are rodents here, and we could never trap them all so that's not going to mitigate it."

As the Labor Day weekend approaches, some people have cancelled reservations at Curry Village after hearing about the outbreak, Gediman said.

The camp sits at the base of the 3,000-foot Glacier Point.

After boulders rained down in 2008, the park permanently closed some cabins. The newer, insulated Signature Cabins were built in 2009 to replace them. Investigators are trying to determine why those cabins were involved in the outbreak.

Park concessionaire Delaware North Co., which oversees the cabins, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Rangers are handing out information brochures at the park entrance warning people to avoid mice in general and mouse droppings in particular.

People with reservations in the affected cabins are not being notified before arrival, but they are being warned during check-in to report any sightings of mouse feces.

"This is a serious public health issue and we want to be transparent, but at the same time we don't want people to alter their plans, because we are taking the necessary precautions," Gediman said.

Since the first illness was reported earlier this month, employees of Delaware North disinfected all 408 canvas-sided and wood-sided cabins in Curry Village. Workers are in the midst of shoring up the cabins in an attempt to keep mice from have easy access.

Epidemiologists say none of the victims had anything in common other than staying in Yosemite cabins.

A 37-year-old man from the San Francisco Bay area was the first person to die. Further details have not been released because of medical privacy laws.

Of the 587 documented U.S. cases since the virus was identified in 1993, about one-third proved fatal.

Deer mice were determined to be the main carriers of the virus, though other rodents can be infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most of the cases occur in the West, though researchers are not sure why.

This year's deaths mark the first such fatalities of park visitors, although two others were stricken in a more remote area of the park in 2000 and 2010.

There have been at least two other fatal cases in national parks in the past few years, including a deputy superintendent at Glacier National Park who died in 2004, and a tourist at the Grand Canyon who was stricken in 2009.

Wong said health officials never were able to determine whether the victims contracted hantavirus inside the park grounds (Fox News, 2012)

Title: The Raccoon Spreads Dangerous Diseases As It Invades Europe
Date: August 28, 2012

Abstract: Furry, agile, intelligent and voracious: the raccoon is far from being a cuddly toy, which is what many people believe when they get one as a pet. It is more like an invader that escapes and is able to adapt and survive in new habitats. According to a study, its expansion across Spain and Europe is bringing infectious and parasitic diseases like rabies. This puts the health of native species and people at risk.

Originating in North America, the raccoon (Procyon lotor) is an invasive species that has established itself in Europe due to hunting and the fur trade along with its acquisition as a pet. In Spain, its presence in the wild is already commonplace in Madrid and Guadalajara and is sporadic in other regions such as the island of Mallorca. Its presence is however far from welcomed. "Due to its rapid expansion and the long list of illnesses that it may carry, it poses a health risk that we must bear in mind," as outlined to SINC Beatriz Beltrán-Beck, the lead author of the study published in the 'European Journal of Wildlife Research' and researcher at the Research Institute of Hunting Resources (IREC, joint centre of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the CSIC, and Castilla-La Mancha Council).

Bearing in mind that its population density could exceed 100 raccoons per km2, the success of the expansion of this small opportunistic carnivore is down to its ability to quickly adapt to different surroundings and omnivorous food habitats, its high reproductive potential and the absence of natural predators. However, as Beltrán-Beck points out, "the impact that their expansion and invasion could have on the environment and the health of native species and humans is unknown." The researcher adds that the increase in population numbers and expansion to other countries and/or urban environments could increase the transmission of dangerous parasites and illnesses to domestic animals and humans.

The guest that nobody wants in their home The research team gathered all types of information on the infectious and parasitic diseases that raccoons can transmit. The aim was to assess the propagation risk of infections along with possible control methods. But, according to the author, "there is little data in Europe on this species". Ads by Google Ask a Neurologist Online - 4 Neurologists Are Online. Questions Answered Every 9 Seconds.

Rabies and a very pathogenic parasite to man (Baylisascaris procyonis), which was found in Germany, are some of the most significant illnesses found in the raccoon. But, along with bacterial illnesses, these are added to the West Nile virus which affects human, birds, horses and sheep. Although in Western Europe rabies have been eliminated thanks to the oral vaccination for foxes (Vulpes vulpes), there is still concern that the raccoon could complicate the situation in some areas of Eastern Europe that are still home to rabies.

In recent years 142 cases of rabies in raccoons have been identified, above all in Ukraine, Estonia, Germany and Lithuania. This small American carnivore has been confirmed to be the host of the nematode worm Baylisascaris procyonis, which is responsible for Larva migrans, an illness caused by larval migration and parasite persistence under the skin, in the brain and in other organs. In the past this disease could only be found in America but is now emerging and on the rise in Europe. "The infected raccoons can scatter millions of nematode B. procyonis eggs, which cause significant environmental contamination," warn the scientists.

In the USA, between 68% and 82% of mammals have this parasite. Prevalence is also high in Germany although in Japan, for example, the parasite was not detected in any of the 1,688 raccoons captured for the purposes of other studies. According to Beltrán-Beck, "more epidemiological studies are necessary on the current health situation and the implementation of measures that limit the possible impact of invading raccoons."

An unpleasant "pet" Given its exotic origin and its rapid expansion since the 1970's, the raccoon is considered an invasive species in Europe. However, the majority of European countries, like Spain, do not control the trade of this animal, which is introduced onto the market as a pet. "The case of Spain is a good example. The origin of its expansion is probably due to it escaping from the home where it was kept as a pet and due to the owners releasing it into the countryside when it reaches adulthood and becomes aggressive," adds the researcher. According to the researcher, "this is mainly the case because there is a complete lack of knowledge of the biology, ecology, distribution and population density of the raccoon in Europe"
(PHYS, 2012)

Title: Vermont Health Officials Confirm Two Cases Of Human Eastern Equine Encephalitis
Date: September 2, 2012
Outbreak News

Abstract: The 
Associated Press reports Saturday, two people have been hospitalized in Vermont with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) according to the Vermont Department of Health.

Both cases involve adults from the Addison and Rutland counties in western Vermont, where mosquito pools recently tested positive for EEE and West Nile virus, the department said.

“The severe form of EEE is a terrible disease, and we want to take every reasonable action to prevent people from becoming infected,” Health Commissioner Harry Chen said in a statement. “These viruses will continue to circulate until the first freeze. Although spraying will help reduce the risk of infection, it’s important that we all take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bitesno matter where we live.”

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne virus that is quite rare in the United States, with only 5-10 cases reported annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). EEE virus is one of several mosquito-transmitted viruses that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

It is not transmitted from person to person.

People at highest risk of getting this infection are those who live in or visit woodland habitats, and people who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities, because of greater exposure to potentially infectedmosquitoes.

Symptoms usually start from a few days to more than a week after getting bit by an infected mosquito. These include a sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The disease can progress to disorientation, seizures, and coma. It is fatal in approximately 30 percent of the cases.

There is no specific treatment for this infection and a vaccine is not available for prevention.

The CDC advises the public to take the following preventive measures to prevent mosquito-borne diseases:

1. Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. The repellent/insecticidepermethrin can be used on clothing to protect through several washes. Always follow the directions on the package.
2. Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits.
3. Have secure, intact screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
4. Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels, and other containers. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used
(Outbreak News, 2012).

Title: Beware Of The Cat: Britain's Hidden Toxoplasma Problem
Date: September 4, 2012

Abstract: A parasite spread by cats is infecting 1,000 new people every day in Britain – about 350,000 a year – according to an official assessment of the risks posed by toxoplasma, which can cause serious illness and has been tentatively linked with schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances.

In news that will challenge public perceptions about the country's most popular pet, official figures to be published later this week will reveal the shocking levels of infection within the UK human population of Toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that forms cysts in the human brain and other vital organs of the body.

Toxoplasma infections come either through direct contact with cats or from eating contaminated meat or vegetables, tests on British blood donors have revealed.

Although the clinical signs can be mild, risk groups, such as pregnant patients with compromised immune systems, can suffer very serious side-effects, leading to congenital birth deformities, blindness, dementia and even death.

The true scale of the hidden problem has shocked experts who believe not enough is being done to warn the public of the known risks posed by toxoplasma, which they judge to be one of the worst food-borne illnesses because of the severity of its effects.

Some experts call in The Independent today for the condition to be made a notifiable disease in England and Wales – meaning that medical staff must be put on alert – bringing the two countries on a par with Scotland, where infections must be reported on a national database. Others question whether families with young children should have pet cats, while some say advice on cooking lamb and preparing vegetables should be changed.

In addition to infections caused by direct contact with cats, people can pick up the parasite by eating the meat of infected animals or from raw vegetables that have not been washed properly to rid them of any toxoplasma eggs contaminating the soil.

About 80 per cent of infected people show no obvious symptoms of toxoplasma and are completely unaware that they are harbouring the parasite. However, new estimates suggest that up to 70,000 people a year in the UK develop some kind of symptoms.

Experts are especially concerned about the emerging scientific evidence suggesting that apparently healthy people with toxoplasma may still be affected unwittingly by the parasite, even when they show no obvious clinical symptoms.

A number of small-scale studies suggest that toxoplasma infection may alter people's personality, making them more prone to risk-taking or delayed reaction times. Studies have also linked toxoplasma infection to psychotic disturbances such as self-harm and suicide, and to serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia.

This week the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will publish a "risk profile" of toxoplasma in the food chain, The Independent has learnt.

The group of experts commissioned to write the report estimates that 350,000 new toxoplasma infections occur each year in the UK, most of them probably from eating contaminated food.

Experts contacted by The Independent have urged the FSA to review its advice to pregnant women and immune-compromised patients and have strongly advised it to change its policy stating that it is safe for people to eat rare lamb.

Sheep are thought to pick up the parasite by eating pasture grass or concentrated feed that is contaminated with cat faeces and preliminary studies indicate that nearly 70 per cent of British sheep have been exposed to the feline parasite.

Although pregnant women and patients with compromised immune systems are warned to avoid pink meat, the FSA's chief scientist, Andrew Wadge, said that it is safe for people to serve lamb rare, even though one study found that two thirds of lamb samples from one Manchester butcher tested positive for toxoplasma.

"People traditionally eat and enjoy lamb cooked rare, the same as beef. That's how people enjoy it and for most people that is perfectly safe," Dr Wadge said.

"Our advice is always on the basis of what we know and the science changes. I'm not going to tell you about the safety of lamb based on another five or ten years of research, I'm going to tell you what I know now, and there is a long history of people eating rare lamb without any adverse consequences," he said.

However, other experts warned that much of the lamb sold in British supermarkets is likely to be contaminated with toxoplasma cysts in the muscle tissue, which can survive cooking when meat is served pink.

"I would steer very well clear of rare lamb. I would certainly not recommend eating rare lamb," said Barbara Lund, a microbiologist at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich.

"Regarding the comment that it is safe to serve whole cuts of beef and lamb rare as long as they have been properly cooked on the outside, it is not clear to me that we can be confident of this advice for sheep meat," Dr Lund said.

Fuller Torrey, an expert on schizophrenia and toxoplasma at America's Stanley Medical Research Institute in Maryland, said that the seriousness of the potential risks posed by the parasite to the general public means that all meat should be cooked thoroughly to kill parasitic cysts lying dormant within muscle tissue.

"Eating any meat that is rare or undercooked is not safe. I would not advise anyone to eat undercooked meat given what we know and don't know about this organism," Dr Torrey said.

Richard Holliman, a consultant medical microbiologist at St George's Hospital in London, who chaired the FSA's working group on toxoplasma, said that based on existing scientific evidence it is not yet justified to change the official advice on the safety of eating rare lamb for the general public.

"Certainly for pregnant women, the advice is to eat meat that has been thoroughly cooked through, but it's difficult to advise the wider population because you have to balance the risk against people's personal tastes," Dr Holliman said

"Some people enjoy food if the meat it not well done. To them it would be a disbenefit to cook meat until it is well done," he said.

Dr Holliman pointed out that vegetarians also suffer from high levels of toxoplasma infection which indicates that meat is not the only source of food-borne contamination.

"Toxoplasma infects a lot of people but only has an impact in terms of lifestyle on a small proportion of them," Dr Holliman said.

"Toxoplasma is more important, or as important as salmonella and campylobacter, which affect a lot of people. Toxoplasma affects a few people but when it does affect them it can be devastating. A child born with congenital toxoplasma is damaged for life," he said (Independent, 2012)

Title: Woman Who Contracted Bacterial Infection Caused By Dog’s Saliva Dies
Date: September 5, 2012
Source: CBS Atlanta

Abstract: A woman who was battling a rare bacterial infection that is primarily found in the saliva of dogs has died.

Hannah Rinehart, 32, a three-time cancer survivor, died early Wednesday morning at Northside Hospital from the capnocytophaga bacterial infection she had been battling since July.

“At exactly 4:15 this morning, Hannah Johnson Rinehart went to be with the Lord,” Mark Rinehart, her husband, wrote on a website he set up for his wife. “She is celebrating, and I am thankful for God allowing me to have the privilege of being her husband while she was here on this Earth. Family was present, and when Hannah was ready to go, she left quickly.”

Rinehart, a former patient care technician in DeKalb County, had her hands and feet amputated July 26 due to the flesh-eating bacteria. The infection also caused her to suffer from septic shock.

Mark Rinehart, a Gwinnett County school teacher, believed the infection came from their 1-year-old dog, but doesn’t know if the dog ever bit her and punctured her skin.

Mark Rinehart tried to get the school district to allow employees to donate their sick leave so he could be with his sick wife, but the district wouldn’t allow it, saying doing so would violate their personnel policy.

Funeral services for Hannah Rinehart will be held Saturday at the North Lanier Baptist Church in Cumming (CBS Atlanta, 2012).

Title: 'It Bit Me So Bad,' Says Virginia Woman, 83, Mauled By Rabid Beaver
Date: September 6, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: An 83-year-old Virginia woman was mauled by a rabid beaver Wednesday as she left a lake where she had been taking a routine swim, The Washington Post reported.

"It bit me so bad," Lillian Peterson told the paper during a call from her hospital bed. "I started kicking it with my other leg, but I wasn't sure what to do."

The 35-pound beaver made its attack as Peterson was exiting Lake Barcroft in Fairfax County, the paper reported. There was a struggle. Peterson tried to beat the animal with a walking stick, but the animal was relentless. It left puncture wounds over much of Peterson’s body and nearly bit off her thumb. The entire ordeal, the paper reported, lasted about 20 minutes.

A witness to the attack called 911 and tried to help the woman. But the beaver made its way to his boat and the man beat the beaver back with a paddle, the report said. The beaver appeared to be dead, but reportedly made more attempts at rescuers until it was eventually euthanized.

"There's no way I will swim in that place again," she told The Post (Fox News, 2012)

Title: Yosemite Extends Hantavirus Warning; Death Toll Rises
Date: September 7, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: Yosemite National Park doubled the scope of its hantavirus warning on Thursday to some 22,000 visitors who may have been exposed to the deadly mouse-borne disease as the number of confirmed cases grew to eight and a third death was reported.

U.S. officials recently sounded a worldwide alert, saying that up to 10,000 people were thought to be at risk of contracting hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after staying at the popular Curry Village lodging area between June and August.

As many as 2,500 of those individuals live outside the United States, U.S. health officials said.

Officials are concerned that more Yosemite visitors could develop the lung disease in the next month or so because the virus may incubate for up to six weeks after exposure.

The warning was expanded to roughly 12,000 additional visitors to the park's more remote High Sierra Camps, after an eighth case of the illness was confirmed in a man who had stayed in tent cabins at three of those camps.

He also had stayed in a tent cabin at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and had camped in the wilderness - all locations in the park's high country, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.

His symptoms were so mild that he never went to a hospital, but after hearing about the outbreak he was tested, and laboratory results confirmed on Thursday that he had been ill with the disease, Gediman said.

The seven other confirmed victims are all believed to have contracted the virus while staying in one or more of the 91 insulated "Signature" tent cabins in Curry Village, located at a lower-elevation area of the park.

The 91 Curry Village tent cabins were shut down after deer mice were found infesting the double walls of the structures.

Officials in Yosemite, a fabled national park destination in California whose scenic vistas, hiking trails and wildlife draw some 4 million visitors a year, did not previously consider the High Sierra Camps to be at risk for hantavirus.

Those camps will remain open, based on recommendations from public health officials, Gediman said, adding, "We do inspections, and we try to keep the rodents out. It's impossible to say every tent cabin is rodent-proof. That's impossible."

He estimated that a few hundred notices also were being sent to individuals who still had reservations to stay at the High Sierra Camps before they close for the season on September 17.

Third Death
The expanded warning came as Yosemite announced that a third person had died of the disease and the number of confirmed cases rose to eight, all of them among U.S. visitors to the park.

Health officials in France were also investigating two suspected hantavirus cases there of people who may have been exposed while at Yosemite, according to an assessment by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Gediman identified the third fatality as a West Virginia resident who contracted hantavirus while staying in Curry Village tent cabins in June. That person died at the end of July, and laboratory tests confirmed on Thursday that the death was due to hantavirus, he said.

The two others who died were a man from northern California and a man from Pennsylvania.

The World Health Organization also issued a global alert this week over the cases of hantavirus linked to Yosemite, and advised travelers to avoid exposure to rodents.

The virus can lead to severe breathing difficulties and death. Early flu-like symptoms include headache, fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath and coughing.

There is no cure for the lung disease, which kills over a third of those infected, but early detection through blood tests greatly increases survival rates.

Hantavirus is carried in rodent feces, urine and saliva that can mix with dust and be inhaled by humans, especially in small, confined spaces with poor ventilation. People also can become infected by eating contaminated food, touching tainted surfaces or being bitten by infected rodents.

The disease has never been known to be transmitted between humans.

Hantavirus previously was known to have infected just two Yosemite visitors, one in 2000 and another in 2010, both at higher elevations in the park (Fox News, 2012)

Title: Yosemite Deer Mice Being Trapped, Killed Following Virus Outbreak
Date: September 12, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: Yosemite National Park has begun trapping and killing deer mice whose growing numbers may have helped create the conditions that led to a hantavirus outbreak that has infected eight park visitors, killing three, public health officials said on Tuesday.

Yosemite officials in recent weeks have warned some 22,000 people who stayed in the park in California over the summer that they may have been exposed to the rodent-borne lung disease, which kills over a third of those infected.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also sounded a worldwide alert, saying visitors to the park's popular Curry Village lodging area between June and August may be at risk. Park officials have closed nearly 100 tent cabins in Curry Village infested with deer mice, which carry the virus.

"From an ecological perspective, it appears that there was an unnaturally high population of rodents in the area. We are being proactive and reducing the population," Danielle Buttke, a veterinary epidemiologist for the National Park Service, told Reuters.

Buttke said the mice were being trapped in several areas of the park for monitoring purposes but believed they were being killed only in the Curry Village area, using snap traps.

Seven of the eight people confirmed to have been infected are believed to have contracted the virus in the village, while one stayed elsewhere in the park.

Public health officials trapped three times as many deer mice in the park's Tuolumne Meadows last week than were caught in a 2008 period, indicating that the deer mice population has grown, said Dr. Vicki Kramer, chief of vector-borne diseases at the state Public Health Department.

Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, said the growing deer mice population might help explain the outbreak.

No Cure
"This could be an explanation for why we're seeing this particular cluster," Chiu said. "What you may have is the perfect storm of conditions: increasing prevalence of deer mice and campers with the same or common exposure to (lodging) infested with deer mice."

Officials are concerned that more Yosemite visitors could still fall ill because the virus can incubate for up to six weeks after exposure. There is no cure for the syndrome but early detection and hospital care increase survival rates.

The virus can lead to severe breathing difficulties and death. Early flu-like symptoms include headache, fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath and coughing.

Last month, authorities began trapping rodents in Yosemite to examine whether deer mice there were more likely to be infected with the hantavirus than deer mice elsewhere, Buttke said, but found they were not.

When authorities first identified the Yosemite hantavirus outbreak, rangers balked at the idea of trying to exterminate the deer mice, arguing that the mice play an important role in the Yosemite ecosystem.

But when they realized the deer mice population had swelled, they decided to thin it in an effort to rebalance the ecosystem, Buttke said. She theorized that weather combined with visitors bringing in food led to Yosemite's abundance of deer mice.

Deer mice release hantavirus in their urine and droppings. People can contract the virus when they breath contaminated air. Children rarely contract the virus, probably because it is often transmitted when adults sweep or vacuum droppings or cut and stack wood.

People usually contract the virus in small, confined spaces with poor ventilation. They also can become infected by eating contaminated food, touching tainted surfaces or being bitten by infected rodents.

The disease has killed 65 Californians and some 600 Americans since hantavirus was identified in 1993, but it has never been known to be transmitted between humans (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Yosemite's Hantavirus May Be Due To Larger Mouse Population
Date: September 12, 2012
LA Times

Abstract: The population of mice that carry hantavirus may have swelled in 
Yosemite National Park, a possible lead in the ongoing investigation into an outbreak of infections that has killed three people since mid-June.

Recent trapping related to the investigation indicates that the park's deer mouse population is larger this year, said Dr. Vicki Kramer, head of the California Department of Public Health's vector-borne disease section. Deer mice are the primary carriers of hantavirus in the U.S.

Agency officials have twice laid peanut butter-laced traps for the rodents at the park, Kramer said. The first traps, set out between Aug. 21 and Aug. 23, were centered on Curry Village, where seven of the eight hantavirus cases have been traced to tent cabins.

About 50% of the Curry Village traps caught mice, and 13.7% of the rodents tested positive for antibodies of sin nombre virus, indicating that they either have, or have had, hantavirus. The statewide average is about 14%, Kramer said.

Trapping resumed last week, after additional cases of hantavirus were linked to Yosemite — including one traced to the High Sierra Loop that links Yosemite Valley with Tuolumne Meadows and other areas. Traps were also laid in Tuolumne Meadows, where about 45% were successful, Kramer said.

That could indicate a larger mouse population, she said. In 2007, only 17% of traps in the area caught mice; in 2008, 25%. Antibody results for the second set of traps were not yet available.

Some experts have wondered if a population boom of deer mice contributed to the Yosemite outbreak. Scientists have attributed the 1993 outbreak in the Four Corners region of the Southwest to an abundant deer mouse population that year.

"That could be a contributing factor," Kramer said of the Yosemite cases. "This seems to be supporting that hypothesis."

Officials have called the Yosemite outbreak unprecedented — more than one hantavirus infection from the same location in the same year is rare. The disease is typically transmitted to humans as they inhale dust or dirt containing the droppings or urine of infected mice.

The mice collected from Yosemite were euthanized and stored in freezers in case experts need their blood or tissue for additional research, said Kramer, who added that fewer than 100 mice had been trapped.

"Our objective is not rodent reduction but risk assessment, by trying to get a general idea of mice abundance," Kramer said.

It could take months to complete the investigation into the Yosemite outbreak, which is being conducted by state and federal agencies, said Danielle Buttke, a veterinary epidemiologist with the National Park Service.

Officials are looking at other factors, among them the density of development in Curry Village, she said. The popular campground offers more food for mice, as well as protection — natural predators are more likely to be scared off by such a large human presence (LA Times, 2012).

Title: Animals Suspected In Spread Of New Virus
Date: September 28, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: Britain's Health Protection Agency has published an early genetic sequence of the new respiratory virus related to SARS that shows it is most closely linked to bat viruses, and scientists say camels, sheep or goats might end up being implicated too.

So far, there are no signs the virus will be as deadly as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed hundreds of people, mostly in Asia, in a 2003 global outbreak.

In Geneva, WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters Friday that so far the signs are that the virus is "not easily transmitted from person to person" - but analyses are ongoing.

Global health officials suspect two victims from the Middle East may have caught it from animals.

"It's a logical possibility to consider any animals present in the region in large numbers," said Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Biologists now need to go into the area and take samples from any animals they can get their hands on, including camels and goats," he said. Baric said it was crucial to find out how widespread the virus is in animals and what kind of contact might be risky for people.

Baric suggested bats might be spreading the virus directly to humans since the two confirmed infections happened months apart. "If there was an established transmission pattern from other animals, we probably would have seen a lot more cases," he said.

The World Health Organization said it is considering the possibility the new coronavirus sickened humans after direct contact with animals. The agency is now working with experts in the Middle East to figure out how the two confirmed cases got infected but could not share details until the investigation was finished.

One patient was a Saudi Arabian man who died several months ago while the other is a Qatari national who traveled to Saudi Arabia before falling ill and is currently in critical but stable condition in a London hospital.

Earlier this week, WHO issued a global alert asking doctors to be on guard for any potential cases of the new respiratory virus, which also causes kidney failure.

Saudi officials have already warned that next month's annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, which brings millions to Saudi Arabia from all around the world, could allow the virus to spread. As a precautionary measure, they are advising pilgrims to keep their hands clean and wear masks in crowded places.

Experts said knowing where a virus comes from provides clues on how to stop it.

"This means we could prevent the fire before it starts instead of rushing towards it with fire trucks and water hoses afterwards," said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

Osterholm said it was possible bats had simply passed on the virus from other animals and that there could be a complicated transmission chain that ultimately ended in humans.

Viruses reproduce as they infect animals and people, giving them more chances to evolve into a deadlier version.

"We don't know enough about coronaviruses to predict which mutations might make them more lethal or transmissible," Osterholm said. "But you don't want to tempt genetic fate with microbes because you're bound to lose most times" (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Frustrated Residents: Raccoons Slowly Taking Over New York City
Date: October 5, 2012
CBS New York

Abstract: A turf battle of sorts is taking place in some neighborhoods.

Raccoons are invading.

They’re getting into garbage cans, backyards and even breaking into homes. And what’s more, these resourceful raccoons are outsmarting the most determined of trappers, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn resident Susan DeBrango snapped pictures of the suspects, their faces masked, trying to get inside her home.

“They are adorable but not in your backyard when they impact your life,” DeBrango said. “When he saw at me he stood up on two legs and hissed at me.”

They are getting more brazen on Washington Avenue, rummaging through trash, and running right up to neighbors. One even went face-to-face with Barbara Mattocks on her own front stoop.

“I don’t want that feeling ever again. I was petrified,” Mattocks said.

It’s gotten so bad, one 3-year-old Maltese named ‘Snowball,’ who used to love to play outside, is now a prisoner in his own home, according to his owner.

“He refuses to go out in the yard,” Mattocks said.

Neighbors said they called 3-1-1 but were told the city will not respond unless the raccoons appear disoriented and potentially rabid. So, the residents chipped in for the services of a humane trapper. However, in three weeks of setting out cat food in cages not a single raccoon was caught.

Raccoon experts said they are not surprised.

“They are extremely intelligent animals. In terms of trying to trap them, once they’ve been trapped once they’ll know not to go in that trap again,” said Rich Weddle of the Animal Husbandry Department at Liberty Science Center.

Weddle said raccoons can spread rabies and distemper, which is a concern for dogs, not to mention parasites, fleas and ticks.

“Some child or some person is going to have to get attacked. Maybe somebody’s pet. Why does it have to come to that?” DeBrango said.

DeBrango said she is organizing a public meeting on Oct. 17, calling it a “Raccoon Summit,” with neighbors, local politicians and raccoon experts. That’s because fighting foes this resourceful means securing trash can lids, bringing cat, dog and bird food inside, and making house repairs to cut them off from cozy places to sleep.

The idea is to hopefully force these crafty characters to move on (CBS New York, 2012).

Title: The Next Pandemic Will Likely Come From Wildlife
October 6, 2012

Abstract: Experts believe the next deadly human pandemic will almost certainly be a virus that spills over from wildlife to humans. The reasons why have a lot to do with the frenetic pace with which we are destroying wild places and disrupting ecosystems.

Emerging diseases are in the news again. Scary viruses are making themselves noticed and felt. There's been a lot of that during the past several months — West Nile fever kills 17 people in the Dallas area, three tourists succumb to hantavirus after visiting Yosemite National Park, an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo claims 33 lives. A separate Ebola outbreak, across the border in Uganda, registers a death toll of 17. A peculiar new coronavirus, related to SARS, proves fatal for a Saudi man and puts a Qatari into critical condition, while disease scientists all over the world wonder: Is this one — or is that one — going to turn into the Next Big One?

By the Next Big One, I mean a murderous pandemic that sweeps around the planet, killing millions of people, as the so-called "Spanish" influenza did in 1918-19, as AIDS has been doing in slower motion, and as SARS might have done in 2003 if it hadn't been stopped by fast science, rigorous

Experts I've interviewed over the past six years generally agree that such a Next Big One is not only possible but probable. They agree that it will almost certainly be a zoonotic disease — one that emerges from wildlife — and that the causal agent will most likely be a virus. They agree that sheer human abundance, density, and interconnectedness make us highly vulnerable. Our population now stands above seven billion, after all, a vast multitude of potential victims, many of us living at close quarters in big cities, traveling quickly and often from place to place, sharing infections with one another; and there are dangerous new viruses lately emerging against which we haven’t been immunized. Another major pandemic seems as logically inevitable as the prospect that a very dry, very thick forest will eventually burn (ENN, 2012).

Title: Hunters Still Hunting Deer Near Area Of Confirmed Chronic Wasting Disease In Adams And York Counties
October 13, 2012

Archers appeared unconcerned about hunting for deer on Saturday within a few miles of each of the Central Pennsylvania spots associated with a diseased deer that brought the announcement on Thursday that state agencies have been dreading for several years: chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in a Pennsylvania deer.

Chronic wasting disease, a deadly disease in white-tailed deer, has been confirmed in a captive doe in Adams County.

"It's in a pen," noted Doug Sease, a New Oxford archer hunting on State Game Lands 249 just a few miles from the New Oxford, Adams County, property where the 3-year-old doe died.

"Unless other deer get around it or touch it or drink from the same water, this is about all it's going to be. It's close, but I don't think it's going to hurt us."

He added, "I saw about 20 deer today. None of those deer looked like they were hurting."

Deadly to deer, elk and moose, without any means of treatment or prevention, CWD has now been confirmed in 23 states, including Pennsylvania.

The disease, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says has shown no ability to jump into humans, has not been found in any wild deer in Pennsylvania.

The animal was part of a small captive group when she died, according to rumors circulating among state Game Commission staff.

It apparently was born to a captive deer near Williamsport, Lycoming County, and later moved to a property near Dover, York County, before being relocated yet again to New Oxford.

That York County property seems to be of growing concern because some of the fences around the enclosure seem to have been removed, allowed unrestricted access to the site by other wildlife, possibly wild deer.

Joe Neville, director of information and education for the Game Commission, said he expects to see commission Executive Director Carl Roe sign an executive order early this week to designate a "disease management area" around the York and Adams county sites.

He said that DMA likely would include "monitoring and surveillance of the wild herd in the area" and check stations for deer harvested by hunters in the area.

Although the details have not been confirmed and could change, the commission also has reserved Bermudian Springs High School in York Springs for 7 p.m. Wednesday to hold a public meeting on the situation.

"We want to go down there and talk to the people directly, the hunters directly," Neville explained. "Our sportsmen have to be part of the solution."

While the commission appears to be moving quickly with its part of the multi-agency response plan that's been in place for several years in anticipation of the CWD announcement, he urged that the issue be "put in perspective. Hunters should take precautions," but not stop hunting.

"This isn't day one or two. This is the beginning of year one," he said. "We may never see another case in Adams County, but we'll be testing for five years."

Another pair of archers, who seemed to taking just that approach Saturday, were cousins Patrick Minnich, of Waynesboro, and Richard Minnich, of Hagerstown, Md., who were hunting on a different area of SGL 249.

"I hope it's not in the wild deer," said Patrick. "But I understand there are no cases where it was transmitted to humans.

"We butcher our own deer, so we would be careful with that and as long as it appeared healthy we wouldn't have a problem with it."

Richard added, "If I did harvest something that didn't look right, I'd turned it in (PennLive, 2012).

Title: Texas Man, 65, Dies In Bee Attack
October 16, 2012
Fox News

Authorities say a 65-year-old South Texas man has died after being attacked by bees while mowing his lawn.

A funeral has been scheduled Monday in San Antonio for Juan Urrutia.

Family members say Urrutia last Thursday and his brother were mowing the yard in southern Bexar County when both men were stung.

Urrutia died later Thursday at a hospital. His brother was treated and released (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Should You Let Your Dog Kiss You?
October 18, 2012

For lovers of canine companions, one may be getting more than just unconditional affection from those sloppy dog kisses.

A new study published in the journal Archives of Oral Biology found that dog owners had a higher rate of a certain disease-causing bacteria in their mouths. So those who are turned off by the sticky mess may have more evidence to back their stance.

Japanese researchers examined dental plaque from 66 dogs and 81 people who came to an animal clinic or training school in 2011.

They found "periodontopathic bacteria" -- the microscopic little guys that can make someone (or some pet) more susceptible to diseases in the mouth and around the teeth -- in more than 70 percent of the dogs.

In the people, the researchers found that between 16 percent and 30 percent of them also had the germs.

But humans weren't the only victims. Researchers found that exchanges of germs went just as easily from owner to dog as dog to owner.

"These results suggest that several periodontopathic species could be transmitted between humans and their companion dogs, though the distribution of periodontopathic species in both is generally different," the researchers wrote in the study.

Remember that next time Scruffy shows some love  (WTOP, 2012).

Title: California Teen Recovering From Six Rattlesnake Bites
November 9, 2012
ABC News

It took 24 doses of anti-venom, four days of hospital intensive care, and two weeks at home for 16-year-old Vera Oliphant to recover from six rattlesnake bites.

Oliphant, who is from El Cajon, Calif., was visiting her uncle in Jamul in San Diego County on Oct. 27 when she went up a hill from his house to try to get a cellphone signal to contact her mother.

“I thought I heard rattles behind me so I ran away. But then I stepped into the snake nest under a pile of leaves. First the mother snake bit my right foot… the baby snakes bit me after that.”

Oliphant tried to call 911, “but I didn’t have any phone signal. So I had to run down the hill back to my uncle’s house,” she said.

She said she was in a fog, her eyesight and her consciousness fading. How she got to the house, she cannot fully recall. “I was feeling numb and paralyzed. I had black vision and I saw bubbles.  It felt like needles were stabbing me… it burned so hard and it felt like a bomb just exploded in me. It’s really hard to describe,” she said.

“I struggled to get my key out, and I was too weak to ring the bell. I desperately tapped at the window and cried, ‘Help me,’ and that’s when my uncle took me to a hospital 15 miles away,” said Oliphant.

On the way to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Oliphant was somehow able to put a post on her Facebook page: “i got bit by a rattle snake & now i,m about to go to l.C.U .. it hurts like a ___ & my leg is paralyzed ._.”

Soon after, she went into anaphylactic shock twice and lost consciousness four times. She arrived at the hospital in the nick of time.

“The doctors told me that I need two to three months to completely recover from the bites. But I will feel a weird sensation when stepping on my right leg for years,” she said.

Oliphant’s father David, who is a former occupational nurse, was more worried about her response to the treatment than the amount of venom that was in her bloodstream.  ”I am used to dealing with patients, but when it’s your own daughter it’s different,” Oliphant’s father told ABC News.

“The majority of people suffering from snake bites survive them if they’re treated on time,” Dr. Donna Seger, Executive Director of Tennessee Poison Center and an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell how bad the bites are because 25 percent of them are dry and sometimes the snakes miss the main vein.” Seger said.

But Oliphant had been bitten badly.  “Snakes in the West, including California, are usually nastier than the ones in the East and are much more toxic,” Seger said.

Oliphant said that she feels lucky to be alive.  She also thinks that had her phone worked, she would not have suffered as much. She said she wishes there are more cellphone towers.  “I mean, there was literally no reception where I was and if I had one I would have called for help.”

Oliphant hopes to go back to Chaparral High School in Santee next Wednesday (ABC News, 2012).