Our weekly zoonotic disease updates are courtesy of Mr. Pat Fricano. He is a One Health Collaborator that has more than 30 combined years of work experience in environmental protection and environmental public health between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Florida Department of Health. In his current capacity as the Zoonotic Diseases Coordinator at the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, he tracks mosquito borne and other vector borne diseases.
Ghana Confirms Two Cases of Marburg Virus; Declares First-Ever Outbreak – 7/18/2022
Ghana has reported two (2) cases of the highly infectious Marburg virus, the World Health Organization said, making it the first-ever outbreak of the disease in the West African nation. According to the WHO, the samples were taken from two deceased and unrelated patients from the southern Ashanti region who exhibited symptoms of the disease, including diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting. Ghana's healthy ministry said in a statement that 98 contacts have so far been identified and are under quarantine where they are being monitored. No new other suspected cases have been detected.
Marburg is a rare but severe hemorrhagic fever that is related to Ebola, and was first recognized in Germany and Yugoslavia, which is now Serbia, in 1967, resulting in more than 31 infections, including seven deaths, during that first outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention. The zoonotic virus transfers to humans from infected host animals, including monkeys, chimps and fruit bats, via blood and waste products, such as feces, the Mayo Clinic said, adding that after the initial transmission, the virus spreads between people through body fluids.
Ghana's outbreak is only the second time one has been detected in West Africa after Guinea confirmed a single case in an outbreak that lasted only five weeks last fall. Other outbreaks have occurred in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya South Africa and Uganda. Based on previous outbreaks, the virus has a fatality rate anywhere between 24% and 88%, the WHO said.
Florida Calls Out The Dogs in Hunt For Invasive Snail – 7/25/2022
A yellow Labrador retriever named Mellon is among the dogs helping Florida officials find and eradicate giant African land snails, which threaten native vegetation, infrastructure and human health. Two dogs have already found more than 1,000 of the invasive snails in Pasco County, and some of the snails were carrying rat lungworms, which can cause meningitis if ingested, says Jason Stanley, a biologist with the state Department of Agriculture.
Studies Suggest SARS-Cov-2 Emerged at Market – 7/26/2022
Two studies in Science bolster the belief that SARS-CoV-2 jumped from animals to people at a market in Wuhan, China, that sold susceptible wild animals as meat, spreading first to people who worked at the market and then into the local community, says co-author Michael Worobey. Case clusters were linked "very, very specifically" to parts of the market where wildlife was sold, and while the findings don't definitively refute the lab leak hypothesis, they suggest it is unlikely, says co-author Kristian Andersen.
SARS-Cov-2 Antibodies Persist for a Year in Deer – 7/26/2022
SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies waned but remained detectable for at least 13 months in 19 of 21 naturally infected captive white-tailed deer, while the two others were seronegative at 6 and 8 months, researchers reported in a paper posted on bioRxiv prior to peer review. The findings suggest that white-tailed deer have the potential to act as hosts of SARS-CoV-2 in nature and raise questions about whether SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies can prevent subsequent infections and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by infected deer, the researchers wrote.
Zoonotic Bacteria That Causes Melioidosis Discovered Along Gulf Coast – 7/27/2022
Burkholderia pseudomallei, a zoonotic soil bacterium that causes melioidosis in animals and humans, has been found in the US for the first time in Southern Mississippi, where at least two people have been sickened by it. When the pathogen is well established, it can't be removed, according to the CDC, and it causes 90,000 human deaths each year.
Time Grows Short to Halt Monkeypox Outbreak – 7/27/2022
Global monkeypox case counts are doubling every two weeks and the window to halt the spread of the disease is closing, experts advising the World Health Organization warn, urging a rapid response that includes vaccination, testing, contact tracing and patient isolation. Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the WHO's technical lead on monkeypox, warns that the stigma associated with the disease, which is largely spreading among gay men, could be as dangerous as the virus itself.
Avian Flu - Thousands of Dead Migrant Seabirds on Canada Shore - 7/28/2022
The carcasses of thousands of migrant seabirds have washed up on the shores of eastern Canada this week and preliminary findings showed that the birds died of avian flu. Since May 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed 13 positive cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland. Environment and Climate Change Canada is conducting more investigations to confirm that the seabird’s deaths are linked to avian flu, Peter Thomas, wildlife biologist for the center said. Dead herring gulls, Iceland gulls, common ravens, and American crows are the among the most affected by the influenza, Thomas added.
According to the Canadian Wildlife Service, the avian influenza virus is contagious and can affect domestic and wild birds throughout the world. Canadian Wildlife Service is working closely with the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to contain the spread. The highly pathogenic avian influenza has also been spreading rapidly in Vancouver Island, the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, infecting birds like great horned owls, bald eagles, great blue herons, ducks and geese, and even crows.
"Every day I receive phone calls saying 10 are dead," Elizabeth Melnick, of Elizabeth's Wildlife Center, BC, said. "Wildlife centers in the country usually choose to save the dying ones as dead ones are picked up by the city," she said. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, avian influenza is a respiratory pathogen that causes a high degree of mortality and becomes a serious threat to the poultry industry. It is naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, pet birds can be infected by avian influenza and spread the disease to humans, so wild birds should not be handled when they are sick or dead.
Veterinarian: Monkeypox Spillback Would be Problematic – 7/30/2022
Most animal species are susceptible to pox viruses, and past monkeypox outbreaks have usually involved young children interacting with an infected squirrel or other rodent, although an outbreak in the US in 2003 stemmed from contact with prairie dogs infected by rodents shipped from Africa, says veterinary pathologist Amy MacNeill, who studies pox viruses. Dr. MacNeill says the strain of virus causing the current outbreak is not exceptionally virulent and is unlikely to cause as many deaths as others might, but pox virologists worry about the risk of reverse transmission into animal populations, which would allow the virus to become endemic in more places.
Animals May be Less Susceptible to Omicron Than People – 8/3/2022
Research suggests SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants are not as easily transmissible among animals as among humans, and when animals do get infected, they are unlikely to experience severe disease. "We should not think 'human first,' but rather integrate the knowledge about animals, humans and their shared environment and develop a holistic approach for surveillance and control of SARS-CoV-2," said veterinarian Amelie Desvars-Larrive, an assistant professor at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and co-author of a study that tallies global animal infections with the virus.
Avian Influenza Found in Quebec Harbor, Gray Seals – 8/3/2022
Nearly six times the average number of dead harbor seals have been found this year along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, and veterinarian Stephane Lair, a professor at the University of Montreal, says 15 dead harbor seals along with a gray seal tested positive for highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. The seals likely had close contact with infected eiders, Dr. Lair says.
Italy: West Nile Cases Double in a Week to Reach 94 – 8/4/2022
The Higher Health Institute (ISS) said Thursday that the number of cases of West Nile virus registered in humans in Italy since the start of June had climbed to 94, adding that the contagion levels had more than doubled in the last week. It said 55 of those cases were of the neuro-invasive form (16 in Emilia-Romagna, 33 in Veneto, 4 in Piedmont and 2 in Lombardy) and it had been notified of 7 deaths linked to the disease (5 in Veneto, 1 in Piedmont and 1 in Emilia-Romagna). West Nile virus (WNV) can be spread by mosquitoes. Most people who get it show no symptoms and recover without treatment.
Swine Influenza May Have Infected People at West Virginia Fair – 8/5/2022
Some people who had contact with pigs at a Jackson County, West Virginia fair subsequently developed respiratory symptoms and fever, and at least one sample is presumed positive for H3N2v influenza A. State agriculture officials say samples from pigs showing signs of illness at the fair also came back positive and were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory for confirmation.
African Monkeypox Cases Not Concentrated Among Gay Men, Experts Say – 8/5/2022
Monkeypox outbreaks in Africa are not concentrated among gay men, unlike in other parts of the world, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa CDC said on Thursday. Outbreaks of the viral disease have been reported from 78 countries, mostly in Europe, and 98% of cases outside the countries in Africa where it is endemic have been reported in men who have sex with men, the WHO says.
But in Africa, where repeated outbreaks have been documented since the 1970s, the pattern of transmission is different, the experts said. "Currently 60% of the cases that we have - the 350 - 60% are men, 40% are women," said epidemiologist Dr Otim Patrick Ramadan, who was answering questions on monkeypox at a media briefing organized by the WHO's regional office in Africa, and who was referring to the continent's number of current cases. He said that more than 80% of cases in Africa were in countries where transmission had happened before, and that typically people were initially exposed to the virus through contact with animals carrying it, before passing it to household members. He added that women typically took care of sick people at home, which was one of the factors in the spread among women.
Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a separate media briefing there was no evidence that transmission among gay men was a specific factor in African outbreaks. "We've been collecting data on monkeypox since 1970 and that particular indicator, men having sex with men, has never come up as a significant issue here in Africa," he said. More than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide in what the WHO has declared to be a global health emergency. Monkeypox spreads via close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions. Public health agencies have stressed that although in many countries the outbreaks are concentrated among men who have sex with men, anyone can contract the virus through prolonged close contact or from particles on items such as bedding or towels.
Florida Nears 1,000 Monkeypox Cases, Ranks Third in US – 8/8/2022
Monkeypox cases continue to climb, with a few Florida counties reporting sharp increases. As of August 8th, the Florida Department of Health reported 938 confirmed or probable cases of monkeypox in 28 counties, according to its tracker on flhealthcharts.gov. A week ago, the state reported 442 cases in 22 counties — that's a jump of 496 probable or confirmed monkeypox cases here since August 1st. A presumptive positive case was first announced in Florida on May 22. According to the Florida Department of Health's tracker, these are the Top 5 counties reporting confirmed or probable monkeypox cases: