Melting Arctic Ice Spreading Deadly Virus to Marine Mammals
A deadly virus is rapidly spreading among marine mammals in the Arctic. In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists have found a link between the disease and melting sea ice due to climate change.
Phocine distemper virus (PDV) has been a known pathogen in certain seal populations for decades, resulting in several mass mortality events involving tens of thousands of animals since 1988.
Researchers studied 15 years of data that tracked 2,500 marine mammals in a variety of locations via satellite.
Scientists also found a record amount of sea ice melt in August 2002 was followed by a widespread outbreak of PDV in North Pacific Steller sea lions in 2003 and 2004. During those years, over 30% of the animals tested positive for the virus.
Researchers concluded that melting Arctic sea ice caused by human-driven climate change paved the way for PDV to spread to new regions and infect new populations of marine mammals, especially along the northern Russian coast and along the coast of northern Canada.
Scientists believe the spread of pathogens could become more common as ice continues to melt, with the increased opportunity to affect more species.
Caribbean Reefs Damaged By Mysterious Disease
There’s a mysterious disease currently ravaging the reefs of the Caribbeans, leaving only white skeletons of corals behind.
This was recently discovered by divers, all of whom were busy monitoring reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands back in January. As they were collecting data, they started noticing some white lesions breaking up the colorful tissues of corals. This continued for quite some time, with some suffering for up to four weeks, while some died by the very next day, marked by their white stony skeletons. More than half of the reef has already suffered.
For now, scientists are suspecting that the mysterious disease could be stony coral tissue loss disease, sometimes referred to as SCTLD, or “skittle-D.” The disease is supposedly responsible for one of the worst coral disease outbreak the world has ever experienced, and was first seen in Florida back in 2014.
Africa’s rare carnivores face threats from disease-carrying dogs
The Ethiopian highlands, which stretch across much of central and northern Ethiopia, are home to some of Africa’s highest peaks. They’re also the last — the only — stronghold of the continent’s rarest carnivore: the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis).
Domestic and feral dogs are frequent carriers of rabies and distemper and can, in turn, pass these diseases on to wild animals. In the highlands, the dogs of herders are semi-feral, used more as an alarm system against leopards and spotted hyenas than as shepherds. They are not spayed or neutered, nor vaccinated, and they are left to their own devices to find food and water. That means they head out to hunt the same rodent prey as the wolves, bringing the two predators into contact with one another.
Diseases like rabies and distemper are particularly problematic for highly social species like Ethiopian wolves. If one member of a pack comes into contact with infected dogs, or with the remains of infected animals, while out hunting, it can spread the disease to the rest of the pack in a matter of days. If that pack encounters wolves from other packs, the disease can spread quickly through the entire population.
Wolf populations are always subject to cyclical crashes and recovery periods as diseases hit and packs rebound. But if another outbreak strikes before a pack has had a chance to recover, it is more likely to wipe out the pack altogether. Scientists worry that the one-two punch of a rabies outbreak immediately followed by a distemper outbreak, like the combination that occurred in both 2010 and 2015, is exactly the scenario that could lead to extinction.
Florida’s Coral Reefs Face Mysterious Disease
Around the world, coral reefs are facing trouble. Coral bleaching, due in part to rising ocean temperatures, has stressed reefs, leaving them weakened and susceptible to disease. Now, in Florida, scientists are struggling to combat a mysterious disease that’s threatening the future of the world’s third largest coral reef.
In just four years, the so-far unidentified disease has already had a dramatic impact on Florida’s reef tract, which extends some 360 miles down the state’s Atlantic coast.
When corals are affected by the disease, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton. Once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks.
It’s proved especially deadly for species of brain and star coral, which form the foundation for many reefs. In some areas now, almost all of those corals are dead.
Scientists believe ocean currents help spread the disease. Since it was first discovered, it’s moved north, affecting reefs all the way up to the St. Lucie inlet. It’s now moving south, through the Florida Keys.
A large number of researchers are working to tackle the disease on many fronts. Some are using DNA analysis to try to identify the pathogens involved. Others are looking for ways to stop the disease from spreading.
Turtle herpes outbreak at Queensland Island, Australia
Two green sea turtles covered in tumours have washed ashore a bay off Magnetic Island in the past two weeks, victims of a crippling disease spreading through turtle populations.
The turtles were likely part of a larger group surveyed earlier this year just off West Point at Cockle Bay, where half of the green turtle population was found to have large tumours around their heads, eyes and shoulders.
Unpublished results have found the tumours are likely caused by fibropapillomatosis, a disease triggered by a turtle-specific herpesvirus that affects sea turtles across the world likely caused by pollution.
The tumours can grow up to 30 centimetres and while they are benign, they can leave turtles susceptible to other causes of death.
Measles Outbreak in Ireland
Forty suspected cases of measles have been reported to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), of which 21 have been confirmed.
The outbreak centres on the south-west of the country but some cases have been reported in Dublin, the mid-west and north-east.
Although public health doctors have traced the origin and spread of the disease, the outbreak has not been contained.
Crow Disease Carriers
Large gatherings of crows, which can congregate in flocks of tens of thousands, may be spreading disease to other species, including humans.
University of California, Davis, researchers found that approximately half of the 6,000 American crows that winter around the campus carry Campylobacter jejuni, which is the leading cause of human gastroenteritis in industrialized countries.
GPS tracking found the birds like to gather around areas with easy access to food, such as dairy barns.
The researchers say this could potentially play a role in spreading the disease to domestic animals, and through them, to humans.
Zika virus infection – Netherlands – Sint Maarten
On 25 February 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for the Netherlands notified WHO of two laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in the Island of Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten is an independent state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is one of the Leeward Islands situated in the western part of the Caribbean region, east of Puerto Rico.
Rare Elizabethkingia Bacteria Outbreak – Wisconsin, USA
A deadly bacterial outbreak is being investigated in Wisconsin with at least 44 reported cases, killing 18 people, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The rare infection results from a naturally occurring bacteria called Elizabethkingia anophelis, which are found in soil, fresh water and reservoirs, health officials said. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, chills or redness on the skin.
The outbreak has primarily affected people over the age of 65 and everyone infected had a history of at least one serious underlying health condition. State and federal health officials said they’re looking to find the source of the outbreak.
Meningitis Outbreak in Niger
The government said Friday that since January the epidemic has killed 129 people out of 1,150 cases as of Wednesday. Just three days earlier on Sunday officials reported 85 deaths and 908 cases.
A couple dozen victims had died of the disease by the end of March, but in April the number of infections accelerated into an epidemic.
Several strains of the infection, which can be highly contagious, have been circulating in the landlocked nation of nearly 18 million in west Africa.
Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, is prone to such epidemics because of its position in the “meningitis belt” that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meningitis is an inflammation of membranes protecting the spinal cord and the brain, and the first symptoms include stiffness and severe headaches.
Amazon Tribe Reveals Western Life Is Killing Good Germs
Samples of germs taken from a tribe of once-isolated indigenous people in Venezuela’s Amazon region found that the tribesmen’s seclusion from the outside world until recently has allowed them to keep the highest diversity of bodily bacteria ever observed among humans.
The trillions of mainly beneficial bacteria our body uses for digestion and immunity have come under assault over the past 75 years by the use of antibiotics, and they are also diminished by the sanitary conditions people mainly enjoy in modern life.
Writing in the journal Science Advances, researchers say that comparing bacterial DNA from the Amazon’s Yanomami villagers with samples from U.S. residents reveals that microbes are about 40 percent less diverse in the American population.
The findings support the theory that lower microbial diversity now found in the developed world may be linked to immune and metabolic diseases like allergies, asthma and diabetes.
“The challenge is to determine which are the important bacteria whose function we need to be healthy,” said researcher M. Gloria Dominguez-Bellow of New York University.
Zimbabwe Battles New Cattle Disease Outbreak
AN outbreak of lumpy skin cattle disease in Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe is feared to have left 5 000 cattle affected.
The worst affected areas include Gutu , Masvingo, Zaka, Bikita, Mwenezi and Chiredzi.
The Department of Veterinary Services is currently carrying out vaccinations of all cattle in the province amid reports of shortages of vaccines and veterinaries.
The outbreak of the lumpy skin cattle disease coincided with farmers in Chiredzi and Mwenezi battling to contain the foot and mouth disease.
Movement of cattle in Chiredzi, Mwenezi and parts of Bikita has been suspended due to the disease.
All public cattle auctions have also been suspended in areas were the disease has wrecked havoc.
Last year, there were no cattle on show at the Masvingo Agricultural Show following an outbreak of foot and mouth in Mwenezi and Chiredzi Districts.
These are traditionally cattle ranching areas in the country.
Such setbacks have hampered plans to rebuild the national herd, which was decimated by the drought suffered in 1992.
First Death from New H10N8 Bird Flu Reported
An elderly woman in China is the first person known to have died from a strain of bird flu called H10N8, according to a new report of the case.
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – update
On 28 January 2014, the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia announced an additional laboratory-confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.
Foot-and-mouth disease breaks out in eastern Mongolia
An outbreak of highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Sukhbaatar province in eastern Mongolia has been confirmed by the Mongolian State Central Veterinary Laboratory, local media reported.
Currently, 86 head of cattle of 15 herder families were infected with FMD and 82 of them were culled. Symptoms of FMD were observed in three sites, head of the district’s veterinary department said.
Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – update
On 30 January 2014, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of seven additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus including one death.
Flu in California
H1N1 Flu is hitting hard in California this season with 147 dead so far.
Plant Virus May Be Behind Massive Honeybee Deaths
Chinese and U.S. researchers say a virus that typically infects plants has been found in honeybees.
The scientists inadvertently found tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV) during routine screening of bees.
“The results of our study provide the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies,” said lead author Ji Lian Li, at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.
He added that the honeybees can also spread TRSV as they move from flower to flower and between plants.
TRSV is particularly dangerous since it produces a flood of mutations that infect in different ways.
Bee colonies found with high levels of various viral strains were less successful in surviving harsh months last winter than those with lower levels of infections.
One-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died off during the winter of 2012-13, a 42 percent increase in fatalities from the previous winter.
TRSV infections could be at least one factor behind colony collapse disorder, which has stumped scientists for years.
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – update
On 20 December 2013, WHO has been informed of four additional laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia.