- The Idaho case indicates yet another case of nonarthropod
transmission of WNV. It is still NOT clear how the alligators pass on
the virus. Again, we have NOT seen this type of transmission in other parts
of the world where WNV is endemic.
- Makes you wonder about the NY 99 West Nile LIKE Virus.
- West Nile Virsu, Human - Idaho
- A ProMED-mail post ProMED-mail is a program of the International
Society for Infectious Diseases http://www.isid.org
- Transmission of West Nile Virus
from Alligators to Humans
- From Steve Grenard
- I need to clarify the discussion in the foregoing post
[West Nile virus, human - USA (Idaho) (02) 20031111.2793], as it is a
bit misleading. There are no commercial or any other types of alligator
farms in Idaho. The weather and environment is much too inhospitable for
that purpose. American alligators (_Alligator mississippiensis_) are naturally
found in 10 southeastern states with the largest numbers, probably a million
or more, being in Louisiana and Florida, followed then by Georgia. coastal
South and North Carolina, lower Alabama, eastern Texas, extreme SE Oklahoma,
Mississippi, and extreme southwestern Arkansas contiguous with eastern
Texas populations (1).
- So these animals do exist in areas where there is significant
seasonal climate change in their natural environment. The West Nile virus
(WNV) infected animals have so far only been identified in farmed animals
kept at artificially high year round temperatures (92-95 degrees F) to
encourage year-round feeding and growth.
- The only conceivable reason a "worker" would
be handling live baby American alligators in Idaho is because these animals
were in the process of, or have entered the pet trade. Baby alligators
have no other commercial value and retail anywhere from one to several
hundred dollars each in the pet trade.
- This factor adds a new dimension to the potential problem,
which is reminiscent of the Turtle/Iguana/Salmonella issue of a few years
ago. The source of baby alligators in the pet trade are likely to be alligator
farms in Louisiana or Florida that find it more profitable to divert such
animals as "pets" than to raise all of them to commercial size
for leather or novelty meat purposes. The leather is used to make luxury
shoes, boots,wallets, and the like. The tail meat is sold frozen by specialty
shops and is often served deep fried using a variety of recipes. However,
baby alligators are of no value for this purpose and are much more valuable
as live pet specimens.
- The reports from Idaho indicate that the worker there
(in Idaho) was handling these animals and that testing found the animals
positive for WNV. This leads to the obvious conclusion that an arthropod
vector was not the source of transmission but that these baby alligators
were shedding virus in some manner, which may have been contracted by the
handler through a cut or abrasion. A concern, however, involves not only
the threat of some pet alligator owner becoming infected through cuts and
abrasions combined with contact with an infected animal but also as a result
of the possibility of even more casual contact, as we have seen demonstrated
in the transmission of Salmonella to humans from reptiles in past cases.
- This case in Idaho requires intense investigation as
to whether these animals, which are hopefully still alive, are shedding
the virus somehow, whether a cut or abrasion may have been the portal through
which it was introduced in the infected victim, and whether the conditions
at alligator farms in Louisiana and Florida (as highlighted by Pete Brazaitis
in the previous posting) may be contributing to the spread of the disease.
Certainly mosquitos in the alligator home states such as Florida and Louisiana
are part of the chain of transmission, but the case is Idaho is definitely
disturbing for the reasons given above.
- (1) Grenard, S. 1991. Handbook Of Alligators and Crocodiles.
Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida.
- -- Steve Grenard Staten Island University Hospital Staten
Island NY 10309
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