- TOXIC ALGAE POSSIBLE CAUSE OF WHALE DEATHS, MAINE, USA
- Date: 3 Aug 2003
- From: ProMED-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Source: Portland Press Herald 2 Aug 2003 [edited]
- Gulf of Maine whale deaths raising fears of toxic algae
- More than 15 years after dead whales washed ashore at
Cape Cod, history may be repeating itself.
- Scientists investigating a cluster of whale carcasses
in the Gulf of Maine say a near-invisible, toxic algae blamed for at least
14 whale deaths in 1987 may have struck again.
- Blubber, skin, waste products and stomach fluid collected
this week from 6 dead whales floating hundreds of miles off the Maine coast
will help determine whether the culprit is an algal bloom, often called
red tide because of its appearance when heavily concentrated.
- Marine experts say the naturally occurring neurotoxin
in the algae may have been passed to the whales by the small fish they
eat. The toxin could have incapacitated the whales and kept them from breathing
or feeding properly, said Donald Anderson, a principal investigator and
senior biologist at Woods Hole (Massachusetts) Oceanographic Institution.
- A team of researchers planned to revisit the carcasses
on Monday to take water samples, knowing full well the difficult task they
face searching for clues in a dynamic water system.
- But, Anderson said, "If we can find the toxin in
the whale tissue and find that there are still a lot of toxic cells in
there, then we'll have the smoking gun, or at least the best we're going
- Authorities say at least 10 whales have been found dead
in July near Georges Bank, an underwater plateau that extends from Cape
Cod northeast to Nova Scotia and separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic
Ocean. It is about 200 miles southeast of Portland.
- Casualties include one fin whale, one pilot whale, and
between 6 and 12 humpback whales, according to the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration Fisheries in the Northeast. Dead whales are
also cropping up in Canadian waters. Canadian news reports put the number
at more than a dozen.
- The whales had been dead for between a week and a month
when they were found, said Teri Frady, spokeswoman for the federal agency,
which is charged with large-whale protection.
- If the test results, expected by next week, are inconclusive,
experts may try to pull a more recently deceased animal to shore for more
complete testing, Frady said.
- Toxic algae has emerged as a probable cause as other
suspected causes grow less likely. Anderson said veterinarians did not
notice viral symptoms in the whales, and NOAA Fisheries said there were
no obvious signs of trauma.
- Large numbers of whale deaths are rare, and some scientists
say an unusual set of events must have occurred, like the ones believed
to have led to the 1987 whale deaths.
- That year, mackerel had migrated south from the Gulf
of St. Lawrence, where they likely ate toxic zooplankton, just as the whales
were preparing to migrate to the Caribbean and needed to consume a lot
of food to generate energy.
- Because the sand lance typically eaten by the whales
was in short supply that year, the animals switched to eating the toxic
mackerel. [The sand lance is an elongated eel-like fish that swims in schools
and embeds itself in the sand at ebb tide. - CopyEd.PG]
- "The fish kept eating zooplankton without being
killed and the poor whales didn't stop eating the fish until they were
dead," said oceanographer David Townsend.
- Townsend, director of the School of Marine Sciences at
the University of Maine, said it is unlikely that the whales got sick near
Georges Bank. He said fish likely consumed the algae in 2 areas in the
Gulf of Maine that are prone to algal blooms -- the mouth of the Bay of
Fundy and a patch located 50 miles south of Penobscot Bay.
- "My guess is that the fish that had been eating
the toxic zooplankton were followed to the point where the whales ate them
and (then) moved onto Georges Bank," Townsend said.
- Scientists say there is little chance that the toxic
algae will find its way to the coast of Maine because of the currents --
good news for the shellfish industry. Algal blooms closer to the coast
already force the state to regularly close shellfish beds on a temporary
basis. In humans, toxins can cause dizziness, nausea, fever, paralysis,
and even death.
- John Hurst, who directs biotoxin monitoring in shellfish
for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said the state's monitoring
system "will keep everyone from getting sick."
- "If we find that shellfish are getting toxic, there'll
be closings," he said. "The Maine patrol people will see to it
that you won't harvest, and dealers don't want it anyway because they don't
want to be sued by somebody."
- Anderson agreed, praising Maine's shellfish monitoring
system as "one of the best in the world."
- [Byline: Josie Huang]
- [The toxic algae found in marine water are usually a
different species than those found in fresh water. Often times toxic algae
blooms in marine water may go by the common name of red tide, although
not all toxin marine algae cause a red coloring, and some fresh-water toxic
algae may produce the red coloring. - Mod.TG]
- UNDIAGNOSED DEATHS, TASMANIAN DEVILS
- Date: Thu 31 Jul 2003
- From: Helena Spedding <Helena.Spedding@pjbpubs.com>
- Source: Reuters Report, Thu 31 Jul 2003 [edited]
- Australia: Undiagnosed Cancer Killing Off Tasmanian Devils
- A mysterious cancer is killing Australasia's Tasmanian
devils -- whose spine-chilling screeches, dark colour, and reputed bad
temper prompted early settlers to give them their chilling name. The world's
largest carnivorous marsupial is the size of a stocky small dog but has
jaws as strong as a crocodile that allow it to eat up to half its body
weight in 30 minutes. An adult can weigh up to 12 kg.
- Australia's southern island state of Tasmania is [now]
the only place where the animals are found, but they are being affected
by a virus-mediated disease that has cut some population groups by 85 percent.
The population of _Sarcophilus harrisii_ peaked at around 175 000 in 1996
before the cancer appeared. Now wildlife officials fear the disease could
kill 2/3 of the population by 2006. The affliction has spread widely in
eastern and central Tasmania in 2 years. It causes huge tumours that block
the animal's eyesight, hearing, or mouth, and they starve to death.
- "We suspect it is spread by biting when the animals
quarrel or mate," said Nick Mooney, a wildlife biologist with the
nature conservation branch of the state's wildlife department. However,
it is unlikely that the cancer will wipe out the Tasmanian devil, as such
diseases often spare a few isolated animals, which then reproduce to revive
the population. "We may find there is nothing more we can do than
isolate parts of the population," Mooney said.
- Helena Spedding
- Deputy Editor
- Animal Pharm
- [The evidence for a viral etiology is unclear from this
report, but the
- description of the disease resembles that of a poxvirus-associated
hyperplasia, such as myxomatosis in rabbits. Further information on the
nature of the disease and its relationship to myxomatosis, if any, would
- Tasmanian devils are restricted to Tasmania, and it is
believed they became extinct on mainland Australia some 600 years ago --
before European settlement of the continent. The dingo, which was brought
into Australia by Aboriginal people, is believed to have ousted the devil
from the mainland. Tasmanian devils are still common in some north, east,
and central districts of Tasmania, where some farming practices (e.g.,
rangeland sheep grazing) provide an abundant source of food. - Mod.CP]
- HEPATITIS E VIRUS, WILDLIFE TO HUMANS - JAPAN
- A ProMED-mail post
- ProMED-mail is a program of the
- International Society for Infectious Diseases
- Date: Fri 1 Aug 2003
- From: Akira Goto <email@example.com>
- Source: The Lancet, Sat 2 Aug 2003, Vol. 362, No. 9381
- Japan: Transmission of Hepatitis E Virus from Wild Sika
Deer to Humans
- Zoonotic transmission of hepatitis E virus (HEV) has
been suggested for various animals, on the basis of indirect evidence.
Shuchin Tei and colleagues have identified potential zoonotic transmission
of HEV from Japanese Sika deer (_Cervus nippon nippon_).
- Over several weeks members of 2 [human] families developed
hepatitis symptoms, but were negative for hepatitis A, B, and C viruses.
Physicians discovered the patients had several times eaten raw meat from
deer caught in the wild in the 7 weeks preceding the first hospital admission.
Fortunately, leftover meat had been frozen and dated at the time of eating.
HEV RNA sequences in the meat of one deer and most of the patients' samples
were 100 percent identical. Shuchin Tei and colleagues conclude that this
finding is direct evidence of zoonotic HEV transmission.
- However, they believe consumption of substantial amounts
of raw deer meat is necessary for transmission, since eating only a little
did not lead to infection in other family members.
- -- Akira Goto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- [The Research Letter from Shuchin Tei, Naoto Kitajima,
Kazuaki Takahashi, and Shunji Mishiro is entitled "Zoonotic transmission
of hepatitis E virus from deer to human beings."
- Hepatitis E virus is is a single-stranded positive-sense
RNA virus which has characteristics (morphology and genome organization)
in common with members of the family _Caliciviridae_, but it is sufficiently
distinct phylogenetically to remain classified as a distinct unassigned
genus. Hepatitis E virus has been associated with water-borne outbreaks
of illness and sporadic cases of enterically transmitted acute hepatitis.
Hepatitis E virus is considered to be endemic in tropical regions of Asia,
Africa, and Central America, and non-pathogenic variants may be present
globally. On the basis of immunological studies, related or identical hepatitis
E viruses infect primates, swine, and other animals, to which now can be
added Sika deer. - Mod.CP]
- [Japan is a distinctly non-tropical country, so maybe
wildlife from temperate region countries should be examined also. Sika
deer are indigenous to Asia, but have been introduced into zoos & parks
in many countries, notably Madagascar, South Africa, New Zealand &
various Pacific island countries, USA (e.g. KY, MD, TX), UK & 7 other
European countries, into which they have escaped and are breeding in the
wild, and also hybridizing with indigenous deer in England & Texas.
It would be interesting to discover whether those are also harboring hepatitis
E virus, and whether their meat is eaten raw in those countries. - Mod.JW]
- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
- Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message
board at: http://www.clickitnews.com/ubbthreads/postlist.php?Cat=&Board=emergingdiseases
- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health