Animal Health

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:

Ebola virus
The World Health Organization
on December 16 declared a two-year drive
to discover how Ebola virus is transmitted
from other primates, who often survive it, to
chimpanzees and humans, in whom it is usually
fatal. An early clue came from Colonel
Nancy Jax of the U.S. Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, in
Frederick, Maryland, who reported in the
December 22 edition of the British medical
journal The Lancet that Ebola is probably
transmitted by airborne droplets, much like
the common cold. Jax observed that two
monkeys kept in cages 10 feet from others
who had Ebola also developed Ebola and
died in 10 and 11 days, respectively, even
though they had no physical contact with the
sick monkeys. “The findings emphasize the
advisability of at-risk personnel employing
precautions to safeguard against ocular, oral,
and nasopharyngeal exposure,” Jax wrote.

Reports that Russian researchers
found and used a cure for Ebola in combatting
the early-summer outbreak in
Zaire were “somewhat inaccurate and prem
a t u r e , ” says USAMRIID immunologist
Peter Jahrling, who recently evaluated the
product for WHO. The substance, produced
by the Russian firm NPO Vector, “is highly
purified immunoglobulin G with a high concentration
of antibody that neutralizes
Ebola,” Jahrling confirmed. It “protected
guinea pigs when treatment was initiated
immediately after Ebola virus inoculation.
However, when treatment was delayed until
the guinea pigs became sick, four days after
infection, all the animals died.” Russian
researchers reported that the product cured
baboons of Ebola, but Jahrling and colleagues
found that tests on monkeys yielded
results similar to those of the guinea pig tests.
Jahrling did call the experimental results
“grounds for cautious optimism. If the
equine IgG now being tested serves to con
firm the principle that antibodies have a place
in treatment of Ebola fever,” he wrote, “the
stage wll be set to develop second generation
therapeutic strategies using bioengineered
forms of human antibodies.”
WHO investigator Dr. Emmanuel
-Moussi reported on December 16 that a
rumored Ebola outbreak in Liberia apparently
had just one victim, Jasper Chea, 25,
whose infection was detected after he traveled
to Ivory Coast. Chea lived. At WHO
headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland,
spokesperson Dr. David Heymann explained
that epidemics of cholera and yellow fever in
Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia were producing
victims with bloody diarrhea, which
inexperienced observers were confusing with
the internal hemorraging caused by Ebola.
Earlier, WHO found that three mid-October
deaths in Zaire, first attributed to Ebola,
were actually due to other diseases. The
deaths occurred in Vanga, 50 miles north of
Kikwit, where the worst Ebola outbreak on
record killed 244 of 315 known victims last
The French pharmaceutical firm
Rhone-Poulenc is to complete a year-long
series of free vaccinations of veterinary
students against rabies in January by innoculating
1,500 Chinese students from 14 different
universities. About 100,000 veterinary
students will have received a total of 300,000
doses of the preventive vaccine, costing the
Pasteur Merieux-Connaught and RhoneMerieux
divisions of Rhone-Poulenc about
$3 million. “On a daily basis, according to
official statistics, more than 200 people are
dying of rabies,” Pasteur MerieuxConnaught
Asia managing director Josef
Bockmann says. Forty percent of the deaths
are in Asia.
Rabies deaths in India usually go
u n r e p o r t e d , Dr. M.K. Sudarshan of the
Kempegowda Institude of Medical Sciences
in Bangalore charged at a November 27 press
conference hosted by Pasteur-Merieux in
New Delhi. Sudarshan called for “the immediate
launching of a surveillance system for
rabies in India.” WHO estimates that rabies
kills about 70,000 people a year, with 30,000
deaths in India, but Sudarshan said, “These
are 20-year-old statistics and come just from
isolation hospitals. The best guesstimate is
that the real figure is nearly 10 times higher,”
circa 250,000 in India. Sudarshan claimed
that rural health clinics often send victims
home to die––and to infect family members.
But he said 95% of rabies cases in India were
caused by dogbite or contact with fresh dog
excrement. India has untold numbers of roving
stray and feral dogs, with only rudimentary
animal control in most communities.
The Florida Veterinary Medical
A s s o c i a t i o n recently won an amendment to
state law that requires veterinarians offering
“limited service clinics” to pay an biannual
registration fee of $250 plus $25 more to register
each individual location where a “limited
service clinic” is held. “The SPCA of
Volusia County was recently stopped the
morning of a scheduled low-cost rabies clinic
because a not-so-supportive vet made a complaint,”
Network of Humane Organizations
president Paul Kershner told A N I M A L
PEOPLE. The Florida Board of Veterinary
Medicine last September rejected a request
from NOHO and the Florida Animal Control
Association to allow an exemption for clinics
held by humane societies and animal control
Dr. Petrie DeVilliers of Durban,
South Africa, is to stand trial for allegedly
causing the death of Christo Engelbrecht,
age 12, in January 1995. Engelbrecht’s parents
claim DeVilliers refused to prescribe
post-exposure rabies vaccination after the boy
was bitten by a rabid dog near his home in
Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal province.
DeVilliers says he warned the Engelbrechts
at least twice that Christo should be vaccinated.
KwaZula-Natal attorney general Tim
McNally ruled on October 31 that the crown
could proceed with culpable homicide

Other epidemics
Washington, Oregon, and Idaho
biologists in early December evacuated 58
bighorn sheep from Hell’s Canyon, along
the Snake River, hoping to save them from a
pasturella outbreak that killed at least 30 in
the previous two weeks. The three states
have tried for years to restore bighorns to the
region, several decades after domestic sheep
diseases extinguished the native population.
The afflicted herd grew to 141 individuals in
1986, but then a previous pasturella outbreak
left just 31 survivors. The new outbreak
came days before Oregon was to release
bighorns from British Columbia into Hell’s
Canyon––and was detected within eight miles
of where 13 bighorns from Alberta were
released last winter, as well as within a
dozen air miles of other herds including the
largest bighorns found in each of the three
states. Wardens shot a domestic goat found
running with the afflicted herd, who may
have been the source of the outbreak.
The U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in early November
identified a mystery disease that hit at least
3,000 people and killed 26 in northwestern
Nicaragua and southern Honduras as a bacterial
infection called leptospirosis, probably
spread by rat urine. Cuba donated 5,000 tons
of rat poison to help Nicaragua contain the
epidemic. The most puzzling aspect of the
outbreak was that it caused lung hemorraging,
rare with leptospirosis, though occasionally
reported in China and Korea, but
common in cases of hanta virus, Ebola virus,
and equine morbillivirus, all simultaneously
breaking out elsewhere.
Fifteen months after Gold Coast
horse trainer Vic Rail and 14 of his steeds
died of lung hemorraging, A u s t r a l i a n
authorities have identified the cause as a morbillivirus,
akin to measles, but don’t know if
quarantines have contained it, after the
October death of farmer Mark Preston, 35,
husband of a veterinarian, whose only
known possible exposure came when he
helped his wife do a necropsy on a dead horse
in 1994. The virus––now named equine morbillivirus––is
the first case on record of a dis-
ease organism previously unknown to science
jumping from one species to another. “The
best guess,” said Australian Animal Health
Laboratory spokesperson Niall Byrne, “is
that this virus normally lives in a native
mammal that rarely has contact with horses
and people.” It is not believed to be closely
related to the morbilliviruses that cause
canine distemper and have hit seals and dolphins
in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean,
and western Pacific since 1988.
A miner, age 39, not named,
died November 24 of hanta virus while en
route to the Nye County Regional Medical
Center in central Nevada. He apparently
came into contact with infected deer mouse
droppings while collecting firewood.
An outbreak of leishmaniasis, a
fly-transmitted disease of dogs, is causing
“a public scare” on Cyprus, according to
Animal Responsibility Cyprus, believed to
be the only humane organization on the
island. Leishmaniasis apparently has little
history of afflicting humans, but Cypriot
authorities say it can finish off AIDS patients.

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