WASHINGTON, DC, March 1, 2000

A unique combination of satellite imagery, geographic information systems, mapping software, the Internet and on the ground observation is giving the public a clearer picture of the threats facing the world's forests. The picture is not pretty, said the World Resources Institute, launching a new initiative Tuesday to document vanishing forests.

For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2000 09:29:16 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
From: Dr. Anand Ramanathan <>

The story of Anthrax and the sporadic cases are not new to the Indian  scenario. There are at least a few pockets especially in and around  different wildlife preserves in India where anthrax has been reported, with  deaths of elephants, rhinos, different ungulates, and sometimes even human  beings living in the fringes of the parks and dependent on natural resources.
Although, such outbreaks are sporadic in occurrence as has been classified  by WHOCC (at LSU [based on official returns to OIE, until we can get harder  data -- MHJ]), it would be very essential to probe their occurrence, as  many times cases can go undocumented especially with regard to wildlife mortalities. Vaccinations are not very common and are usually fund-driven.
Additionally, in wildlife protected areas which are classified as
"sanctuaries", grazing rights are allowed, resulting in the movement of  livestock across parks and beyond boundaries, except in crisis situation as  now.
Although, impact of such activities are inapparent, we are very much  sitting on a ticking time-bomb!!! It will need much more than a concerted  effort from veterinary and forest departments in addition to the efforts of  NGOs and people to make a significant impact in taking steps to control the  onslaught of infectious diseases. It needs an awakening about the  importance of wildlife health and the ecosystem health in the larger perspective and about the impact on human and livestock communities. Unfortunately, the field of wildlife health is still very nascent here.
Since, it was large mammal, at least it could be noticed. In case of small  mammals or other ungulates,it may be difficult to detect or observe. (At this juncture, I have a question? What happens to carnivores if they prey on such carcasses? Are they more resistant as in dogs??). [Lions are regularly reported dying of anthrax in the Kruger National Park from feeding on moribund & dead kudu, with typical oral lesions. The comments about the relative invisibility of anthrax in smaller animals are very valid. MHJ]
Pasteur-type vaccines are only available in India, although this itself is not commonly available. [Which explains their lack of success. The Pasteur vaccine as designed originally or as used today was very dangerous and is useless. MHJ]
I speculate that that origin could have been from sylvatic sources as animals with latent infection could have caused the outbreak. Anthrax has been reported from rhinos earlier from parts of Assam although I do not have the references currently on hand.
[This is an amazing cocktail of fact and fiction. Maybe someone can provide us with a more factual account. ... etc (rest deleted) MHJ]
Dr. Nasser Ahmed, <>, a co-ordinator of the Indian Wildlife Health Cooperative, Eastern Region, is visiting the place shortly. Let's hope we get to hear more from him, first-hand information.
Dr. Anand Ramanathan, BVSc, MSc
Programme Officer,
Wildlife Trust of India,
P.O. Box - 3150,
D - 94, Amar colony,
Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi
PIN - 110 003. India
[I have copied this communication to Dr. Ahmed in hope that he
will respond. MHJ]

From: <>
Via : Woodford <>
Subject: From Dr. Cheeran

Anthrax in animals in India is not taken very seriously, maybe we have more important diseases to worry about. We had previously the Rinderpest (the "aetiology" of OIE itself). Now we have the problem of FMD [Foot-&-mouth disease] rampant, the HS [Haemorrhagic septicaemia], and a less important BQ [Black quarter]. So the vaccinations are done periodically usually for  FMD & HS.
Anthrax, although endemic all over India, vaccination on mass scale is seldom resorted. The sporadic incidence could be another reason for its improper compliance. Occasional death of elephants from Anthrax is reported in elephants. Incidentally elephants are good grazers also contrary to MHJ'sview.
- --
Jacob V. Cheeran
Indian member of the OIE Working Group on Wildlife Diseases
[Michael Woodford commented: "I agree with him that elephants (both Africa and Indian) often graze rather more than one thinks." Which must increase the risk of elephants acquiring anthrax above that of pure-browsers. While open to the accusation of seeing anthrax where others don't, a common experience is that the disease is regularly under-reported. We regularly find that a rancher or farmer has had a series of livestock deaths before anthrax is diagnosed; in sheep this can involve greater than 50 deaths before a diagnosis is attempted. And in India the disease is unevenly distributed with the eastern (alkaline) side having the large majority of cases. What can then be high local incidences, if divided by the national livestock denominator, makes them statistically "sporadic". And if "endemic" (vide supra) it is not sporadic. I don't argue about the greater importance of FMD, except that with modern vaccines it can be readily, rapidly, and efficiently eradicated, as in South America. MHJ]

Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000 17:25:38 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Denver Post

In the last several decades, frogs and toads around the world have died off  in large numbers, leading to theories that climate change is the cause. But  there is no significant correlation between the amphibians' croaking and  climate variations, say 2 Boulder scientists who have studied the die-offs  in Colorado, Costa Rica/Panama and Australia. Those 3 areas have had well-documented amphibian die-offs due to disease. Cynthia Carey, a  professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said she isn't ready to give up studying whether the disease outbreak may be indirectly influenced by climate and environmental factors.
"We don't know anything about what sorts of environmental factors could tip the balance between pathogens and amphibian immune defenses," Carey said.
The global amphibian decline could have many causes, such as loss of forests and wetlands, pesticide use and the introduction of a predator, she said. But she's concerned many amphibians live in relatively undisturbed areas.
"We need to move on this problem quickly," Carey said. "There is not much time left to identify and fix the problem before Earth loses most of its amphibians."
Results of the study by Carey and climatologist Michael Alexander of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were presented at a national conference in Washington, D.C. The American Association for the Advancement of Science sessions that run through Tuesday are attracting more than 600 speakers from around the world.
Carey and Alexander looked at climate information from Colorado's mountains, and the tropical locales in Queensland, Australia, Costa Rica and Panama. They gathered information from land, sea and space sources to see if there were unusual temperature or precipitation patterns that coincided with amphibian dieoffs from the 1970s to the 1990s. But Carey said they came up empty-handed on an apparent correlation between weather and outbreaks of amphibian disease.
In 1998, scientists noted that amphibians around the world were dying from skin infections caused by a fungus. Two of the 3 largest populations of endangered boreal toads in Colorado - in Rocky Mountain National Park and Clear Creek County - are now infected with the fungus, said Carey, one of the first US scientists to tie amphibian die-offs to disease. In Colorado, boreal toad and leopard frog die-offs, probably caused by fungal infections, began in 1973 and continued until about 1982. Carey said the Colorado die-offs resumed in 1997, but don't seem as
virulent this time around.
- --
Marjorie P. Pollack, M.D.

Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000 17:36:33 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <

There is a serious avian influenza epidemic taking place in northern Italy at this moment, and yet it seems almost impossible to get any good information on it. Nobody seems willing to talk about it. As a magazine editor for poultry industry I am interested in finding out as much as possible: so that the industry is kept updated, and so we can take the "lessons learned" aspect for prevention purposes.
Here is a summary of what I know: The region affected is northern Italy and the situation started over a year ago with a low pathogenic strain (I presume). The strain mutated into the highly pathogenic H7N1 strain late last year or early this year. The first reports were of turkey mortalities: first 2 million, then 7 million. Then it went to layers, with another 7 to 9 million mortalities reported. The last word I heard (this week) from reputable scientists in the US and Europe was there are 22 million dead
birds and that it has spread beyond the borders of Italy. (Exactly where was not divulged).
The regions of Lombardia and veneto seem to the most affected and there have been 170 outbreaks reported.
In using the term "mortality" I include birds killed by the influenza as well as destroyed birds. The destruction of infected flocks was, in fact, the way the Italians chose to control the outbreak. At first they were criticized for this, but now it is seen as a wise decision. Apparently they are now starting to vaccinate poultry flocks in the area against AI.
I am looking for someone who has the "big picture" of this situation, to give an overview of what is happening, how many turkeys, layers and broilers have been affected, what has been the response of industry and government, and what the future of this situation is. I appreciate your help.
- --
Chris Wright

Date: Sun, 5 Mar 2000 01:07:03 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <
Source: Panamanian media

We would be pleased to provide up-to-date information regarding the cluster of hantavirus infection in Panama, but we cannot. All we have heard is that there have been nine cases, four of them fatal. We presume these are all hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) cases.
Samples from human HPS cases have been confirmed in the C.D.C. laboratories in Atlanta and rodents are being tested there for the presence of a hantavirus, hopefully the etiologic agent of these infections. Of interest has been mention of _Sigmodon_ species rats (habitat from Boas del Torothrough Darien) as a focus of study. Presumably C.D.C. personnel are on site and but it has been reported that more than 2,000 traps have been set out and will be monitored over the next three days.
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) also is currently collaborating with health authorities in Panama. Further information might be obtained directly from Panama Ministry of Health at <>.

Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 08:59:07 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Science Daily

Veterinary scientists have proved an organism long suspected as the cause  of feline infectious anemia (FIA) indeed is the culprit. Along the way,  they have created a diagnostic tool and concluded the bacterial organism is  a mycoplasma, not a Rickkettsiae.
The molecular confirmation that FIA is caused by _Haemobartenella felis_ --  described in an article in the January issue of Veterinary Pathology -- came after a series of studies at the University of Illinois (UI) College of Veterinary Medicine. Using a technique known as _in situ_ hybridization, researchers showed a small gene fragment, which they had identified earlier, linked positively to _H. felis_ located on red blood cells taken from experimentally infected cats.
"These organisms are teeny tiny parasites," said Joanne B. Messick, a UI professor of veterinary pathology. "For years they were thought to be rickettsial, but our laboratory and at least 2 other laboratories now show that they are not rickettsial. They are mycoplasma organisms."
Rickettsiae are gram-negative, disease-causing intracellular parasitic bacteria whose transmission has been linked to ectoparasite vectors.  Mycoplasma organisms are tough, evasive bacteria lacking a cell wall. They are the smallest free-living cells known to exist, and their vector is uncertain, though believed to be the same as Rickettsiae, Messick said. For years, suspected cases of FIA have been treated with antibiotics. Cats can become very anemic as red-blood-cell counts plummet. Even if symptoms disappear, the organism remains present. The prevalence of the disease - --lacking a diagnostic tool -- has been impossible to determine.
Messick and colleagues, including UI veterinary student Linda Marie Berent, initially developed a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assay, then used it to see if it could detect _H. felis_ in infected cats.
"Dr. Berent has used the PCR assay to answer some questions related to whether cats remain carriers after infection and to prove the clinical disease is caused by _H. felis_," Messick said.
The UI technique will help veterinarians better grasp the scope of FIA infection, she said. It also will help researchers find the carrier and identify risk factors associated with chronic infection. Once the genes involved in disease activation are isolated, she said, a vaccine could be made. She will discuss her lab's findings and the implications during a seminar 25-28 May 2000 at the 18th Annual American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Seattle.
"In the cat population, I believe the disease is a bigger problem than people recognize," she said. "It has been too difficult to diagnose. It's a really fascinating organism. It is very transient. It goes into hiding very easily. Where does it go?"
Long-term infections with mycoplasmas relate to rheumatic diseases such as arthritis, she said. "However, the long-term consequences of a cat living with _H.felis_, even if inactive, are unknown."
The original news release can be found at

Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 09:25:42 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohio and federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of 23 cases of invasive Group A [streptococcal disease] in the Cincinnati area that has led to two deaths and can develop into flesh-eating disease [necrotizing fasciitis]. So far, a total of 63 cases have been reported in Ohio between 1 Jan and 29 Feb 2000. [This is] 24 more [cases] than [were reported in] all of 1999.
Most of the Greater Cincinnati cases of invasive Group A _Streptococcus_ -  the serious form of [streptococcal] throat infections - have led to toxic shock, a massive infection that can cause organ failure. But a few of the cases have developed into necrotizing fasciitis, the so-called flesh-eating disease that destroys muscle, fat and skin tissue, health officials said.
The Ohio Department of Health and the [US] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are examining the cluster of invasive [streptococcal disease] cases in Greater Cincinnati for a common link. At least two people in Hamilton County - both of whom suffered from toxic shock - have died of invasive [streptococcal] infections, health officials said.
Few people who are exposed to the bacteria develop serious illness, health officials said. It causes mild skin infections or [streptococcal sore] throat in some people, but makes others seriously ill for unknown reasons. Health officials and area hospitals have known about the outbreak for at least two weeks. The public was not informed because little can be done to ward off the bacteria and its onset is so rapid people become seriously ill with few symptoms, said Dr. Malcolm Adcock, Cincinnati health commissioner. The 23 Greater Cincinnati cases represent a dramatic increase from the three to five cases typically expected in the area during the same period each year. A CDC team is in Cincinnati studying the outbreak to determine if the victims had anything in common and spread the infection among themselves. The investigators have not yet found any obvious links, Adcock said.
Invasive Group A [streptococcal disease] is spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat or contact with an open wound or sore on the skin of an infected person, health officials said. It is not an airborne bacterium, but it can be spread by someone coughing or sneezing on a hand and passing it to another person. Cultures of the bacteria are being collected from victims in the Cincinnati area and being sent to federal health laboratories for analysis.
[Byline: Randy Ludlow & Andrew Conte]
[It is unclear from this news report how many of the 63 cases that have occurred this year are serious forms of streptococcal disease. The second paragraph implies that most of them were streptococcal toxic shock disease, but that may simply be referring to the most serious cases. I could find nothing about this situation on the Ohio Department of Health website. It is not entirely clear why some streptococcal infections progress to serious invasive infections, while others do not. It is likely that both host immunocompetence and bacterial virulence factors play a role. ProMED-mail would appreciate more technical information about this outbreak. - Mod.ES]

Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 22:42:40 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
In tomorrow's issue (vol. 49, no. 9) of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will report that the Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases (DVBID) laboratories in Fort Collins has detected RNA of West Nile virus (WNV) in mosquitoes that have spent the winter in underground structures in New York City.
Although WNV RNA (envelope, NS-1 and NS-5 regions) were detected in three of 67 pools containing _Culex_ spp. mosquitoes, WNV has not been isolated from these pools. Thus, the persistence of WNV in mosquitoes in New York City has not yet been proven but the persistence of WNV RNA has. In an editorial note MMWR comments that the reason virus has not been isolated may be because (1) virus titer may be exceedingly low, (2) virus may be noninfectious in overwintering mosquitoes, (3) virus may have been inactivated during processing, (4) noninfectious WNV RNA, but not infectious virus, may persist in the mosquitoes, or (5) the results may have been nonspecific.
The DVBID laboratories are continuing to attempt virus isolation and continuing other rigorous and thorough efforts to determine whether WNV is persisting in the New York area and to determine the likelihood of another outbreak of this virus and disease.
Although vertical transmission (from one generation to another) of WNV has been shown in experimentally-infected _Culex_ and _Aedes_ spp. mosquitoes and vertical transmission of WNV has been demonstrated in African _Culex univittatus_ mosquitoes, results of these studies in New York have not provided evidence for vertical transmission of WNV there.
We assume that further information will be forthcoming but, at least for now, all that can be said is that WNV RNA has persisted through the New York winter. Whether the virus has also persisted remains to be determined.
- --
Charles H. Calisher
Moderator, Viral Diseases


Date: Thu 9 Mar 2000 22:35:42 -0300
From: Martin Hugh-Jones <>
Our readers may well want to check out this article, as it is not irrelevant to our interests.
- --
Martin Hugh-Jones
Department of Epidemiology & Community Health,
School of Veterinary Medicine,
Louisiana State University,
Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
tel: (225) 346-3341
fax: (225) 346-3331
[Fascinating piece. - Mod. CHC]

NEWS RELEASE -- March 9, 2000
Threat To Plants And Animals Explored In Science Magazine Article

Climate change will likely be a significant driver of biodiversity change and loss over the next hundred years, according to a peer-reviewed article in this week's Science magazine. The article finds that climate change will probably be the second leading contributor to biodiversity loss after land use changes by the year 2100. The article, "Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100," was co-authored by a group of 19 scientists including Environmental Defense ecologist Janine Bloomfield.
"The findings in
Science underscore the fragility of our planet's natural ecosystems and the threat posed to those systems from unchecked global warming," said Bloomfield. "Responsible and affordable actions must be taken now to conserve energy and cut greenhouse gas pollution." While land use changes such as encroaching sprawl and deforestation have long been known to cause habitat and biodiversity losses, the Science article shows the additional impact climate change can have on ecosystems.
Warming over the last century and particularly in the last two decades illustrates the vulnerability of species to climate change. For example:

  • Adelie penguin populations in Antarctica have declined 33% in the last 25 years due to shrinking sea ice in response to rapidly rising local temperatures.
  • An analysis of shoreline sea life in Monterey Bay, California showed southern species have increased significantly while northern species have declined, probably in response to rising sea surface temperatures over a 60-year period.
  • Alpine plants in the Austrian and Swiss Alps moved higher up on mountain slopes over a 70 to 90 year period, in response to an increase in average annual temperatures.
"Global warming has been identified by the Science report as one of the future 'hidden killers' of already struggling natural systems around the world," said Robert Bonnie, an Environmental Defense wildlife specialist. "Species close to the brink of extinction may be pushed over the abyss by the added stress of climate change. Only by acting now to cut greenhouse gas pollution can large changes be averted." Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization based in New York, represents more than 300,000 members. Since 1967 we have linked science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and cost-effective solutions to the most urgent environmental problems.

SYDNEY, Australia, March 10, 2000 (ENS) - Massive loss of biodiversity is proceeding at such a great rate that scientists consider it to have joined climate change and the greenhouse effect as a major global threat.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000
For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 12:30:03 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Robert S. Zimmerman Jr. today announced that the state is finalizing plans to monitor the state for potential mosquito and animal carriers of the West Nile virus that struck New York City last year. "We want to be sure we are prepared if this virus crosses the Pennsylvania state line," Secretary Zimmerman said. "We are developing an aggressive plan to monitor, test and control the species of mosquitoes that carries the virus, and to educate Pennsylvanians on easy steps they can take to protect themselves."
Although the West Nile virus has not been found in Pennsylvania, the state wants to be ready in case the virus spreads into the state this summer. Governor Tom Ridge's 2000-01 budget proposes $9.8 million in new funding to prevent and mitigate the potential public-health effects of West Nile virus on citizens of the Commonwealth. The funds will provide necessary staffing and an improved epidemiological infrastructure to detect the virus should it find its way into Pennsylvania.
The departments of Health, Environmental Protection, Aging, and
Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Fish and Boat and Game commissions currently are working on a comprehensive, statewide plan to try to prevent a virus outbreak in Pennsylvania. "We learned from other states last summer that we need to be ready to respond if the virus is found to help prevent it from spreading," Department of Environmental Protection Secretary James M. Seif said. "The state's plan will include testing animal populations that may act as a host for the virus and monitoring public health to provide early warning of virus infections."
DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] has been charged with the mosquito surveillance and control portion of the multi-agency effort to control disease outbreaks in Pennsylvania. The seven agencies will work together and with local governments to implement the comprehensive surveillance and control program, which will include mosquito surveillance and monitoring. Birds, chickens and horses, potential hosts for the virus, will be monitored and tested. If the virus is detected, the control program will be implemented to kill the infected mosquitoes.
For more information visit the Pennsylvania website at
<> or directly at <>.
CONTACT: George Yanoshik, Press Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 717-787-1783, or April L. Hutcheson of the Pennsylvania DEP, 717-787-1323, or pager, 888-516-7705.
SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Health [Seropositive birds were found last summer in New Jersey, New York and Maryland. Pennsylvania is between New Jersey and Maryland. - Mod. CHC]

Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 11:43:22 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Mycobacterium ulcerans, new virulence factor
Source: Ghanaian Chronicle

[Buruli ulcer was widely reported to have re-emerged as a problem in the Eastern Region of Ghana last year, and has now been reported in a total of 83 patients during 1999.] The affected who reported to various health centres in the region are undergoing free, but slow treatment. A synopsis of the Buruli cases, which was obtained from the Eastern Regional Directorate of Health Services, indicated that all, but four of the 15 districts of the region, reported cases of the ulcer during the year. The
Akuapem South district [reported] 38 cases followed by Yilo Krobo with 17 and Akuapem North with 9. Suhum, Kraboa-Coaltar had 80 cases; Birim North - 4; Manya Krobo - 3; and Kwahu South district had 1 case. The data also suggested that the infection was [more frequent] in the rainy season than during the dry spell. The peak was in June when 21 Buruli ulcer cases were recorded. Other months of high incidence were September (12), November(11), May and October (9) each and July (6). In [both] April and December, 5 cases were recorded, [and] March and August each had 2 cases. While the dry month of January had only 1 case, February was actually free of Buruli ulcer cases.
[This report means] that the only districts of the Eastern Region which are Buruli ulcer-free, are the Afram plains, Fanteakwa, Asuogyaman, West Akyem and Kwaebibriem. Knowledge about the causes of Buruli ulcer remains scanty as a lot of studies are still underway on the subject. However, when contacted, the Eastern Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Aaron Offei, explained that certain [bacteria] called [_Mycobacterium ulcerans_] is the agent of the disease. This bacterium is at times on some grass and fauna in the bush and along the paths leading to rivers and ponds. "Once you come into contact with the bacterium, it starts with a small swelling on your skin called pre-ulcerative node." According to Dr. Offei if the node is left untreated, it develops into a big sore commonly called 'Kisikro' by the Akans. Though the agents of the disease do not dwell in water per se, he said, the [mycobacteria] appear to be prevalent on grasses and fauna near to certain water bodies. Among the endemic areas are pockets of settlements along the Densu River in the Suhum Kraboa-Coaltar and Akuapem South districts as well as Amasaman in the Ga Rural district.
Asked how the 83 infected people are faring, the Regional Director said their wounds were being cleaned and dressed with gauze and medicines. That treatment could take one year or more before the sores heal completely, depending on how big they are, he said, saying that the treatment is supposed to be free. In view of the long period of healing and the pain caused by the disease, Dr. Offei called on all people who notice the node or swelling on their skins to [report] to the nearest health centre for diagnosis, explaining that if detected early the disease can be stopped with only an [excision] around the node. He advised rural dwellers to wear long clothing before going to their farms or riversides to protect their skin from being brushed directly.
[Byline: A. C. Ohene]

Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 11:53:07 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
From: Stuart B. Levy, M.D. <>,
Kathy Young, Exec. Director

Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, Tufts Medical School, 75 Kneeland Street, Boston, MA 02111
Antibiotic resistance has been identified as a mounting public health threat by the WHO, CDC, IOM and various US medical organizations. To raise the public's and health professionals' awareness about its causes and known interventions, the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics is sponsoring four symposia or conferences in the next 2 months:
13 April 2000: 9th International Congress on Infectious Diseases, Buenos Aires, the Sheraton Hotel and convention center, 5:30-7:30 p.m. APUA and APUA-Argentina, along with the Pan American Health Organization and the Pan American Society for Infectious Diseases, are sponsoring a symposium, with a reception to follow.
2 May 2000: The CME-accredited day-long course, Antibiotic Resistance: Global Challenge with Local Solutions, the Sheraton, Needham, MA; presented by 15 US infectious disease experts and representatives from the US CDC and the WHO. This program is geared toward primary care physicians and is sponsored in conjunction with Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health, American Assoc. for World Health, and the Massachusetts Medical Society.
For more information, see <>.
4-5 May 2000: Antimicrobial Resistance, The Royal Society of Medicine, London, the Westin Fairfax Hotel, Washington, DC. For more information, see <>.
24 May 2000, American Society of Microbiology symposium: Panel on Reservoirs of Antibiotic Resistance (ROAR); Los Angeles, CA. presenters include Drs. Julian Davies, Stuart Levy, and Abigail Saylers. For more information, see <>.
As an independent organization with chapters in 24 countries, APUA serves as a neutral source of information on antibiotic resistance on a global basis. For more information, see <>.

Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 17:29:08 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Associated Press

Another 63 000 Lahontan cutthroat trout were destroyed at a federal fish hatchery Saturday after a new outbreak of the disease furunculosis, prompted last month's killing of 350 000 of the endangered game fish there. The latest action came after attempts to treat the cutthroat with antibiotics failed at the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery south of Gardnerville.
In early February, the hatchery destroyed 350 000 of the fish in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Another 80 000 fish had died before the action.
Biologists had been struggling since November to treat the fish afflicted with furunculosis, a bacteria [infection caused by bacteria] found naturally in northern Nevada's watersheds. "We thought we had the disease handled in February, but apparently some fish didn't take to the antibiotics the first time and the disease stayed," Randi Thompson, spokeswoman with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said.
Coupled with the earlier deaths, the disease claimed nearly 500,000 of the hatchery's fingerling cutthroat in recent months. The action left the hatchery with virtually no cutthroat until next month's arrival of 1 million eggs from Pyramid Lake, 30 miles northeast of Reno. The hatchery raises about 600 000 cutthroat for annual release into the region's Pyramid and Walker lakes and Truckee River.
Saturday's action was taken to help save a crucial brood stock of about 100 Pilot Peak cutthroat. They are kept in separate ponds and have not been affected by the disease, Thompson said. In all, more than 400 000 cutthroat were suffocated in recent weeks by an infusion of carbon dioxide pumped into shallow water-holding tanks. Biologists theorize the bacteria destroying the fish's organs was carried to the hatchery by birds from the nearby east fork of the Carson River. Officials plan to begin sterilizing the hatchery this week to prevent another outbreak of the disease.
The 63 000 carcasses will be taken Monday by Reno Rendering to be turned into fertilizer and feed, Thompson said. Lahontan cutthroat are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Though protected, they are allowed to be caught by anglers because of hatchery production programs.
- --
Marjorie P. Pollack, M.D.
[Furunculosis is caused by _Aeromonas salmonicida_, a nonmotile, pigment-producing rod originally described as the cause of a septicemic disease, potentially producing high mortality. In the acute form, hemorrhages are found in the fins, tail muscles, gills, and internal organs. In more chronic forms focal areas of swelling, hemorrhage and tissue necrosis develop in the muscles. These lesions progress to crateriform abscesses discharging from the skin surface (furuncles). Liquefactive necrosis occurs in the spleen and kidney. Diagnosis is made by
isolating a pure culture of the organism. Avoidance is the most effective prevention because _A. salmonicida_ is an obligatory fish pathogen. - Mod.TG]
[The use of fish contaminated with _A. salmonicida_ as feed is of interest. There is a published report (Frye, F. L., An unusual epizootic of anuran aeromoniasis, JAVMA 187:1223-4, 1985) of an epizootic of _A. salmonicida_, normally a pathogen of teleosts, in a colony of African clawed frogs (_Xenopus laevis_). In this report, the frog colony had been fed several kilograms of fresh-caught salmon that had been added to the beef heart-vitamin-mineral mix that was usually fed to the frogs. The salmon was postulated to be the source of the epizootic. Frogs are commonly infected with _A. hydrophila_, not _A. salmonicida_. -Man. Ed. DS]

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 13, 2000 (ENS)
Investigation of ozone depletion in the atmosphere is Canada's goal in building its first science satellite since 1971.

For full text and graphics visit:

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, March 13, 2000 (ENS)

With the first day of spring just a week away, climate scientists are already calling this winter the warmest since climate recordkeeping began in 1895.
For full text and graphics visit:

Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 20:19:00 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
From: Charles H. Calisher <>
Source: Connecticut Post

Scientists have evidence that West Nile virus [WNV] has survived the winter in birds and mosquitoes. Testing in Connecticut of a red-tailed hawk found last month in Westchester County, N.Y., shows it died of the virus. Mosquitoes found in Queens, N.Y., in January and February also have yielded WNV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
"It's no longer speculation," said Duane Gubler, director of the CDC's vector-borne disease program. "There likely will be transmission in the spring. It's a very strong likelihood the virus will persist." Gubler said the fact that the virus survived the winter does not change CDC recommendations. In January, it urged several states to develop larvicide and monitoring programs.
The hawk was sent to the Northeastern Research Center for Wildlife Diseases at the University of Connecticut on Feb. 6, where testing showed it died of the virus. On 4 March 2000, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven verified the diagnosis. Research Center Director Herbert J. Van Kruiningen said the findings indicate another outbreak of West Nile is likely this year. He said there are three ways the hawk might have been infected: in late fall, before mosquitoes stopped flying; in midwinter, if a mosquito came out of hibernation; or by eating another infected animal, either a bird or a mammal. Van Kruiningen suspects the hawk ate another infected animal, but he doesn't yet know what species might be acting as a "reservoir" for the virus. "It could be crows or backyard birds of another variety," he said.
Birds themselves do not pose a threat to humans, but mosquitoes that feed on them could transmit the virus, which [can cause encephalitis].
Connecticut officials held a press conference Monday to announce a $500,000 larvicide assistance program to help shoreline and some inland towns kill mosquitoes before they take flight. No mention of the bird's death was made at the press conference.
"The fact that we have live virus in the first week of February in a bird may be suggestive the virus may be able to overwinter in birds," John Anderson, director of the agricultural station, said Monday afternoon. He said that already had been suspected. Anderson thinks the hawk became infected in late fall, and harbored the virus in an "quiescent" stage until recently.
Gubler learned of the hawk's death Monday morning from the Connecticut Department of Public Health. He said there is no previous evidence the virus can be present so long before killing a bird or that eating a host animal can transit the virus. So he wants another test of the bird's tissue, possibly at a CDC lab. "It hasn't really been described before," he said. "It's a very important and interesting observation, but it needs to be verified."
Gubler said the finding that the virus survived the winter in mosquitoes "reinforces the need to do what Connecticut and New York and New Jersey are doing - developing and implementing surveillance and prevention plans."
Though several other birds collected in the fall and winter are in storage at the laboratory at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Van Kruiningen said the state won't be [spending] money until the new fiscal year starts in July. "I don't have $10 to use to help us finish the previous year's work," he said. "The mosquitoes will return in May, and the money comes in July. Do the math."
Michelle Sullivan, a DEP spokesperson, said DEP officials learned only recently of the hawk's infection, and that it did not alter the plans the agency announced Monday.
[Duane is correct in saying that there is no evidence that WNV can be transmitted orally. The experiment should be done but that is not a critical issue at this point. The take-home message is that WNV has been isolated from overwintering mosquitoes and that the virus has persisted transseasonally. "One robin might not a spring make" but two isolates portend a very busy spring, summer and fall in the northeastern U.S. and, perhaps, elsewhere. If the virus has persisted transseasonally in New York, it likely has persisted transseasonally in areas further to the south, which had a warmer winter.
That Connecticut does not have as much as $10 to complete studies of samples collected last year, something is wrong in someone's accounting department. There is no evidence that WNV entered the U.S. in 1999. It might have been here since much earlier than that and no one noticed because routine surveillance has been underfunded. - Mod. CHC]

Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 20:25:36 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

Source: Spanish press AFP
An unknown hemorrhagic fever whose symptoms are similar to those caused by Ebola virus, has killed 17 persons in Uganda, according to responsible health officials of this country. The Ugandan Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working on the identification of thisfever, which produces hemorrhages, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. The cases have been turned over to the National Center of Virus Studies. The cases were reported in Duruba, in the district of Arua, in the northwest of Uganda.

Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 09:48:26 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

Researchers at St. Louis University said Monday they had been asked to study a smallpox vaccine because of fears the deadly virus could be spread or revived through terrorist attacks. Smallpox was officially eradicated through a mass vaccination program 20 years ago but could be used in bioterrorist attacks, requiring governments to quickly find an antidote for the deadly virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has asked the St Louis University School of Medicine Center for Vaccine Development in Missouri, to determine the safety and effectiveness of some of the small, remaining supply of the smallpox vaccine known as Dryvax.
"Because of the recent concerns of terrorism throughout the world, the United States government is making efforts to improve its ability to protect its citizens in the event of an attack," said associate professor of infectious diseases and immunology at the university's Medicine Center for Vaccine Development, Sharon Frey. Frey, who is leading the study, said in a telephone interview that the main aim of their research was to measure the effectiveness of diluted doses of Dryvax, which is no longer produced.
Of the 60 people enrolled in the study, one third will receive a vaccine diluted 10 times, the second a vaccine diluted 100 times, and the remainder will get the full undiluted dosage.
"Being able to dilute the vaccine would potentially increase the available stock by 10 to 100 fold," said Frey. Frey estimated there were about seven million Dryvax doses available in the United States -- far short of what would be needed to inoculate the current U.S. population of 270 million in the event of a smallpox outbreak. "There is a limited amount of supply and the point of this is to see how much we can dilute the vaccine to see how many available doses we could really have in the event of an attack," Frey said. She added that the United States government, the military and others were doing research to find other vaccines against smallpox. "Our research will be an interim step between what we have now in terms of stocks and finding a new vaccine," she said.
The nightmare scenario would be if the smallpox virus were released via an aerosol at a crowded place such as a sports stadium or a political campaign event. "We guesstimate that if one person is infected they can, in turn, infect 25 people...You can imagine with air travel how easily we could have a pandemic on our hands."
With smallpox, it takes about two weeks before people begin to show their symptoms and by that time the virus would be on its way to being spread nationwide and beyond. The World Health Organization declared the world free of the smallpox virus in 1980 after routine vaccinations eradicated the disease. Last year, experts from the WHO recommended further research on the virus before the world's only known remaining stocks of smallpox in the United States and Russia were destroyed. The stocks, kept in high-security laboratories at the CDC in Atlanta and at the Russian State Center for Research on Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk, were to have been destroyed last June 30. Both the United States and Russia were among 30 states at WHO's annual assembly last May who sponsored a resolution calling for more international research into antiviral agents and improved vaccines.
President Clinton announced last April that he would seek a delay in destroying the stocks because of fears the disease may be spread through terrorist attacks.

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina, March 15, 2000 (ENS)

Prolonged exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields such as those emitted by large power lines may double the risk of suicide, says a new study from the University of North Carolina.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000
For full text and graphics visit:

BROOKLYN, New York, March 15, 2000 (ENS)

Human burning of fossil fuels is clearly linked to global warming, but solar winds pouring through holes in the Sun's outer layer may also be partly responsible.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000
For full text and graphics visit:

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2000 (ENS)

The United States is in the midst of a worsening drought following the warmest winter on record, the National Weather Service warned this week.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000
For full text and graphics visit:

PHOENIX, Arizona
, March 16, 2000 (ENS)

Governor Jane Hull today announced the appointment of a Brown Cloud Summit to address the issue of visibility and pollution caused health problems in the Phoenix valley. "The public is tired of having Arizona's spectacular scenery marred by this brown colored haze," said Hull. "The elevated level of pollution also results in health problems for our residents and visitors. Not only are respiratory conditions worsened as a result of this air quality problem, but breathing problems are also created for otherwise healthy individuals, particularly the elderly and young children" Former state Senator Ed Phillips will chair the Summit. Phillips is now a meteorologist for Phoenix radio and television stations. The Brown Cloud Summit will explore ways to improve visibility and reduce the brown cloud in the Phoenix area, said Hull.
The Summit will begin its work after the end of the current Legislative session and will issue a final report by the end of this year. "It is my hope that some of the findings and recommendations from the Summit will result in proposals for legislative, regulatory and voluntary action to address this serious issue," Hull said. The majority of the Valley's air pollutants causing the haze come from automobiles and trucks. Air quality in the Valley has improved in recent years, due to toughened standards set by the state in cooperation with federal authorities. The state has not had any measurable violations of air quality standards for carbon monoxide or ozone since 1997, Hull said.

Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 17:20:23 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Reuters

France's food safety agency approved on Tuesday a proposed ban on "pithing", a method widely used in slaughterhouses which experts fear may increase the risk of "mad cow disease" (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE) spreading to humans through infected meat.
It involves firing a metal bolt into the brain to stun the animal before killing it. Experts say the bolt could release prions, the proteins which cause BSE from the brain while the animal was not yet dead, allowing them to spread into the meat.
The bolt, which is reused, might also carry the prions from one animal to another, the AFSSA food safety agency said in an opinion made public last week. Meat from cattle infected with BSE is blamed for human cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), a deadly, brain-wasting disorder for which there is no known cure.
Slaughterhouses use pithing so animals do not flail their limbs while being butchered, injuring workers. The AFSSA agency said it approved the wording which the government proposes to use in banning it.
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M. Cosgriff
[Work published in the Lancet in September, 1996, detailed how this process could allow for the meat to be seeded with microscopic prion agents. It is great the research is finally having an impact. The article detailed finding as much as 14.5 cm of neurological tissue in the lungs. If pieces that large can be found, what about the smaller, microscopic particles? - Mod. TG]

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 21:30:53 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: Washington Post

Maryland health officials believe they are prepared for any potential threat from West Nile virus (WNV) and say the risk of a recurrence of the mosquito-borne disease is low. West Nile virus, which can cause an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis, was found in a dead crow in downtown Baltimore last fall and was blamed for seven deaths in New York last summer. "I don't think we should be overly concerned. It should be treated like any other disease that can be passed by mosquitoes," said Clifford Johnson, a veterinarian at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who studies the transmission of diseases from animals to humans.
Maryland has applied for $239 000, a portion of $2.9 million in public health funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The grant would bolster state laboratory testing for the virus and mosquito control.
[Given that Maryland has not had any West Nile virus disease in humans, there cannot be any recurrence. There surely can be the first case, however. Maybe the first 20 cases. I hope no one really is underestimating the potential of WNV to do considerable harm and that this statement is simply an effort to "calm the masses". In any event, I do not agree that the risk is low. Indeed, I think it is high. We know the virus was there last fall and we know it has overwintered in NY. So why would Maryland be spared? Until we know that WNV occurs in cycles and does not recur yearly, we cannot say one way or the other. This is a virus and disease new to this hemisphere; new hosts, new vectors, different background immunity to flaviviruses, and more. We are at Square One with regard to knowledge about WNV in the Western Hemisphere. - Mod.CHC]

Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 22:11:56 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Source: CDC/MMWR

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is an acute viral rodentborne zoonosis characterized by severe cardiopulmonary illness with a 40%--60% case-fatality rate. Since its identification in the United States in 1993, the recognized clinical spectrum of illnesses associated with human hantavirus infection has expanded to include mild illness, and case-patients have been identified in Canada and South America (1,2). This report describes the first confirmed HPS cases from Central America and summarizes preliminary results of clinical, epidemiologic, and ecologic investigations. Investigators identified 12 suspected cases with typical disease and captured four common species of rodents near case households.
In mid-January 1999, reports of a cluster of acute febrile respiratory illnesses associated with three deaths in Las Tablas and Guarare districts, Los Santos province, Panama (population: 55 000), led to an investigation by the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies (GMIHS) and the Panamanian Ministry of Health (MOH). Human illness was characterized by fever, myalgia, headache, and cough with rapid progression to respiratory failure and bilateral pulmonary infiltrates, hypotension, and thrombocytopenia consistent with HPS. Initial laboratory testing of specimens at CDC from three case-patients confirmed the presence of IgM and IgG antibodies using antigens of Sin Nombre virus and the presence of detectable hantavirus RNA by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
As of 6 Mar 2000, 12 patients with suspected HPS have been identified; three died. The mean age of patients was 42 years (range: 26--58 years); 58% were women. Serum specimens taken from eight case-patients who met the CDC epidemiologic case definition (1) had hantavirus antibodies, including two specimens that also were positive by RT-PCR. Serologic testing is pending for another suspected case-patient. Although the three patients who died had signs and symptoms compatible with HPS, epidemiologic data are limited and no specimens from these patients are available for diagnostictesting. The first case-patient was identified retrospectively as having onset of illness in August 1999; the latest case-patient had onset of illness on February 28. All 12 case-patients had clinical disease typical of HPS; however, seven case-patients had atypical extrapulmonary symptoms of hepatic, renal, and cerebral dysfunction. No cases have been reported among health-care workers or from person-to-person transmission. Studies to define the prevalence of hantavirus infection among community members and health-care workers, the extent of mild or asymptomatic infection, and the risk factors for developing HPS are in progress.
Rodent trapping at 10 homes, six occupied by confirmed case-patients, yielded 54 rodents; four common species accounted for 98% of captured rodents and were identified tentatively as _Zygodontomys brevicauda_ (25 [46%]), _Sigmodon hispidus_ (14 [26%]), _Mus musculus_ (eight [15%]), and _Oligoryzomys_ sp. (six [11%]). Although only 5% of traps captured rodents,reports from GMIHS indicated a recent increase in peridomestic rodents associated with increased rainfall and flooding in surrounding areas.
To prevent additional hantavirus transmission to humans, MOH disseminated information to the Los Santos community about risk-reduction measures and to physicians about how to recognize patients and manage HPS. A public awareness and risk-reduction campaign was implemented nationwide and included televised public service announcements and distribution of educational posters and pamphlets. In addition, an outbreak communication center was established and staffed 24 hours a day by specially trained physicians, public health officials, and health educators to collect reports of suspected HPS cases and to answer questions from the public and health-care providers about hantaviruses. MOH physicians are contacting hospitals nationwide to promote HPS awareness, to evaluate suspected cases, and to provide treatment guidance on the basis of standard HPS criteria and guidelines (3).
[MMWR] Editorial Note: HPS is a pan-American zoonosis identified in 1993 with confirmed cases ranging from Canada and the United States to southern South America (2,4). HPS is attributed to infection with New World hantaviruses maintained by natural hosts in the rodent family Muridae, subfamily Sigmodontinae. Infection in humans occurs after inhalation of aerosolized virus or direct contact with infected rodents or their excreta. Person-to-person and nosocomial transmission have been documented only in Argentina with Andes virus (5). An increasing number of hantaviruses is being identified by genetic sequencing, including from the two RT-PCR--positive cases described in this report (6). On the basis of antigenic similarities, CDC has identified all cases using Sin Nombre antigens. The predominant viruses in the United States have been Sin Nombre and the closely related New York viruses, the reservoirs of which are _Peromyscus_ spp. (deer mice and white-footed mice); _Peromyscus_ spp. have caused 234 cases reported in the United States as of March 2000 (CDC, unpublished data, 2000).
The epidemiology of HPS is closely related to the ecology of the rodent reservoir populations. Increased U.S. incidence of HPS has been linked to periods of above average rainfall in normally dry areas of the southwestern United States resulting in improved habitat quality and increased numbers of infected reservoir rodents (7). Blood and tissue samples from the captured species of sigmodontine rodents in Panama will be tested for hantavirus antibody and RNA to identify the specific reservoir. Preliminary data indicate that rainfall in parts of Los Santos was unusually high during the fall and winter of 1999. A possible association between increased precipitation and increased numbers of reservoir rodents in the affected and surrounding areas is being explored.
Sigmodontine rodents occur throughout the Americas, but HPS never has been found between Texas and Brazil. However, the discovery of HPS in Panama was expected and should lead to increased vigilance for the syndrome in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
Because no specific therapy exists for HPS, prevention measures should be taken to avoid contact with wild rodents, including preventing entry of wild rodents into human dwellings; eliminating food and shelter for rodents in the peridomestic environment; safe trapping (using kill-traps) and disposal of wild rodents that enter homes; and careful cleaning and disinfecting of areas in and around homes that have been contaminated by rodents (8). Reports of HPS and requests for diagnostic testing and epidemic assistance can be directed to CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Special Pathogens Branch, telephone (404) 639-1511. Information about HPS can be found on the CDC World-Wide Web site,
1. Young J, Mills J, Enria D, Dolan N, Khan A, Ksiazek T. New World hantaviruses. British Med Bull 1998;54:659--73.
2. Peters CJ. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the Americas. In: Scheld WM, Craig WA, Hughes JM, eds. Emerging infections 2. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: ASM Press, 1998:17--63.
3. Pan American Health Organization. Hantavirus in the Americas: guidelines for diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control. Washington, DC: Pan American Health Organization,1999:1--65.
4. Schmaljohn C, Hjelle B. A global disease problem. Emerg Infect Dis 1997;3:95--104.
5. Wells RM, Sosa Estani S, Yadon ZE, et al. An unusual hantavirus outbreak in southern Argentina: person-to-person transmission? Emerg Infect Dis 1997;3:171--4.
6. Nichol ST. Genetic analysis of hantaviruses and their host
relationships. In: Saluzzo JF, Dodet B, eds. Factors in the emergence and control of rodent-borne viral diseases. Paris, France: Elsevier SAS,1999:99--109.
7. Engelthaler DM, Mosley DG, Cheek JE, et al. Climatic and environmental patterns associated with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Four Corners region, United States. Emerg Infect Dis 1999;5:87--94.
8. CDC. Hantavirus infection---southwestern United States: interim recommendations for risk reduction. MMWR 1993;42:1--13.
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[This brings us up to date with respect to the outbreak (which appears to have ended) but it is likely that when the studies have ended we will have another newly recognized hantavirus and its rodent host to add to the lengthening lists. - Mod.CHC]

HONOLULU, Hawai'i, March 17, 2000 (ENS)

A new sonar system being tested by the U.S. Navy could pose a threat to marine life, including whales, human swimmers and divers.

Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 11:04:41 -0500 (EST)
From: ProMED-mail <>

16 MAR 2000

The latest statistics on HPS in the US: N=238

Male: 144 (61%)

White: 183 (77%)
American Indian: 49 (21%)

Hispanic (considered separately from race): 24 (10%)

Died: 99 (42%)

Mean Age: 37, Range [10-75]
- --
Joni C. Young
Special Pathogens Branch, M.S. A26
1600 Clifton Rd. NE
Atlanta, GA 30329-4018