Things to watch in 2011: avian influenza, foot and mouth disease, and animal die-off events


Avian Influenza in Egypt

On December 29th a WHO report confirmed two additional cases of avian influenza (H5N1) in Egypt, one of which has died. The report confirms 115 cases to date for Egypt with 38 total deaths. An earlier report, from December 28th, discusses yet another case in Egypt in the Sharqia Governorate. This 116th case has not yet been confirmed by the WHO. In more recent news, two more cases were reported along with an additional death. This recent news if confirmed would bring the case total to 118 and deaths to 40.

FMD in South Korea
Five of South Korea’s nine provinces have now been affected by the country’s worst ever Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Despite quarantine efforts put into place when the outbreak began on November 29, 2010, 85 cases have been confirmed as of January 4th, 2011. The country has begun a massive vaccination campaign with over 500,000 livestock slated to be vaccinated to include livestock in FMD-free areas. Use of the vaccine is typically reserved as a last resort due to high cost and additional time that it will now take for South Korea to regain “FMD-Free” status. The OIE has additional report information, including a map of confirmed outbreaks.

Bird die-off Arkansas
Scientists are continuing to investigate a die-off of an estimated 5,000 red-winged blackbirds, grackles and starlings that occurred shortly before midnight in Beebe, Arkansas on December 31, 2010. Initial examinations showed acute physical trauma and no signs of chronic or infectious disease. Some speculate that the incident may have been due to a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. Laboratory tests are underway, but may take weeks to provide any answers.

Fish die-off Arkansas
In what is said to be an unrelated event, an estimated 100,000 drum fish were found dead in a stretch of the Arkansas river in Ozark, Arkansas. Ozark is around 125 miles west of Beebe where on December 31st ~5,000 birds were found dead shortly before midnight. It has been suggested that the massive fish die-off was due to infectious disease, as only one species was primarily affected. Laboratory tests are being conducted on fish collected from the site, however results may not be available for up to 30 days.


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