Animal health

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1995:

Infectious diseases
Protecting their collections, Sea World San Diego and Marine World Africa USA
in Vallejo, California, have suspended accepting stranded marine mammals, after morbillivirus
was found in a common dolphin who beached herself on August 31 near Marina Del
Ray and was taken to Sea World for rehab. Lack of a rehab site obliged authorities to euthanize
a stranded pygmy sperm whale in early October. Morbillivirus, related to canine distemper,
killed tens of thousands of seals and at least 800 bottlenose dolphins in the North
Atlantic during 1987-1988, about 1,000 striped dolphins in the Mediterranean in 1989-1990,
and circa 900 dolphins off the Texas coast in 1994, but has never before been found in the
Pacific. The infected dolphin, still at Sea World, shows no symptoms of the disease, and
may be an immune carrier.

A third British dairy farmer recently died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Dr.
Philip Smith and colleages with the National CJD Survellance Unit announced September 28.
CJD is believed by some authorities to be a human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
a.k.a. BSE, which a decade into an epidemic plaguing England continues to afflict 400
cattle a week. Prions causing the disease may possibly be transmitted via milk or beef. The
British government believes BSE mutated from the sheep disease scrapie, infecting cattle via
bone meal feed additives. Such feeds are now banned, but BSE apparently has a long latency
period––and may have other modes of transmission.
Dr. Sherif Zaki and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
in Atlanta have reportedly developed a simple skin test to detect the onset of Ebola virus
infection, which could help prevent outbreaks like the one that recently hit Zaire.

Rabies update
Two aircraft from the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources on October
14 began scattering 120,000 oral rabies vaccine
balls over a 15-mile corridor alongside
the St. Lawrence River in Jefferson and St.
Lawrence counties, New York, hoping to
keep the mid-Atlantic raccoon rabies pandemic
from spreading into Canada. The pandemic
has already reached Niagara County and parts
of Jefferson County. Another 80,000 vaccine
balls will be distributed by hand in
Tonawanda, Niagara Falls, and Lockport raccoon
The California Department of
Health urged cat owners to vaccinate their
animals on October 13 after a rabid cat
scratched or bit four children, two adults, and
six dogs at a home in Woodside. In all, 13
people including six animal control workers
and a veterinarian received post-exposure
shots. The cat, described as a free-roaming
“adopted stray,” had been bitten by a skunk.
No rabid pet had been found in San Mateo
County since 1947, but nearby Marin County
had a rabid cat in 1991. On September 28, a
dog killed a rabid skunk about 30 miles to the
south in Gilroy; a week before that, a man
whom officials didn’t name died from rabies
of unknown origin in nearby Hollister.
Medina County SPCA humane
officer Vic Koppelberger, of Medina, Ohio,
on October 2 asked the county commissioners
to sponsor preventive use of the oral rabies
vaccine in local raccoon habitat. The midAtlantic
raccoon rabies pandemic has reached
Ohio, but the last rabies case in Medina
County was a rabid cow in 1983.

Letter on bat rabies
An item under “Rabies notes” in
the September ANIMAL PEOPLE s a i d ,
“Two residents of San Rafael, California,
were bitten by rabid bats in June, including
a five-year-old boy playing near a backyard
pool and a woman who was swimming. The
bats in each case were apparently attracted
by insects hovering over the water.”
I find it hard to believe that a rabid
bat was hovering over a swimming pool
looking for an insect meal. Rabid bats in the
infective stage are pretty much incapable of
hovering over anything. They might well
bite when handled, which is the usual
method of rabies transmission from bats to
humans. Bats are not asymptomatic lifelong
rabies carriers, as was once believed. They
normally bite only in self-defense and pose
little threat to people who don’t handle them.
––Patricia Brown Barbosa
Director, Wildlife America Inc.
Scotch Plains, New Jersey

The California bat bites were wit –
nessed. The five-year-old approached a bat;
the adult didn’t. Unfortunately, there were
no witnesses to the contact that killed bat
rabies victims Kelly Ahrendt, 11, of Bloomingburg,
New York, on July 11, 1994;
Tiffany Mathews, 4, of Centralia, Washington,
on March 15, 1995; and Maria
Fareri, 13, of Greenwich, Connecticut, on
October 3, 1995. None were known to have
been bitten. Only Matthews was known to
have ever been near a bat

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