Equine herpes virus-1, a sometimes deadly virus that can cause myeloencephalopathy in some infected horses (Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy or EHM), has surfaced at one horse farm in Union County, NJ, as reported by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture on March 20, 2018 and in theHORSE on March 21, 2018.

The second horse had an elevated temperature and was showing respiratory signs, but no neurological signs were noted by the attending veterinarian.

The first horse was moved into the isolation barn on the property last week and the property was placed under quarantine. The finding of another positive horse has reset the quarantine clock and will delay the release date another three days. These are the first reported EHV-1 cases in New Jersey in 2018.

As reported by the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, designated as a World Reference Center for EHV-1 and EHV-4:

Over the past decade there has been an unexpected increase in equine herpesvirus neurologic disease (equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy [EHM]) incidence. Previous research by other scientists suggests a significant percentage of EHM or paralytic herpes outbreaks are caused by a mutant strain. A single mutation has been identified in the gene encoding of the viral replication enzyme, which seems to confer the power of enhanced pathogenicity (a pathogen’s ability to cause disease in an organism) or neurovirulence to such strains.

New Jersey is not a novice in managing EHM outbreaks.  As previously described, New Jersey Department of Agriculture in partnership with the New Jersey Racing Commission, private practitioners, horse trainers, and with assistance from USDA, issued and supervised a quarantine of horses boarding at Monmouth Race Track in October 2006 which lasted two months. See, Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy-A Guide to Effective Response; and Infectious Diseases In Animals And Humans – What Is Your Legal Risk?

USDA publishes “A Guide to Understanding the Neurologic Form of EHV Infection” equine_herpesvirus_brochure_2009,  and explains  that “Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) infection in horses can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death, and/or neurologic disease. The neurologic form of EHV-1 is called Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). The virus can spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.”

In USDA’s Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy: Mitigation Experiences, Lessons Learned, and Future Needs, in which responders to the Monmouth Race Park quarantine were interviewed (including me):

Dr. Peter Timoney, Professor, University of Kentucky, Gluck Equine Research Center and Chair of the Infectious Diseases of Horses Committee of the United States Animal Health Association (USAHA), pointed out that ‘. . . within the past few years, a mutant of the wild-type of EHV-1 has been identified which evidence would indicate is very frequently associated with outbreaks of EHM. Also, this mutant has been identified among isolates of EHV-1 made prior to 2000. As the distribution of this virus mutant becomes more widespread in the equine population, the frequency and severity of outbreaks of EHM is likely to increase further unless measures to control its spread and occurrence of the disease can be developed.’

In addition to animal health issues, EHM outbreaks can result in lawsuits, as evidenced by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Ass’n v. Alpen House U.L.C., 942 F.Supp.2d 497 (D.N.J. 2013), in which

Racehorse owners and association to which they belonged brought action for strict liability and negligence against owner of training facility that allegedly was source of outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus—Type 1 (EHV–1) that caused racehorses to be quarantined, which prevented them from racing.

Id.  After Alpen House lost its motion for summary judgment, the parties likely settled, but this has not been confirmed.

Research is still underway to develop a vaccine that will protect horses against the neurological form of EHV, and until completed, more outbreaks should be expected.

Pet therapy programs have been expanding throughout the country, based largely on the increasing recognition that humans benefit from the human-animal bond.  The human-animal bond is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as:

a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.

While the IRS, in (PLR 201719018), has recently ruled “that a charity’s planned pet therapy program, which would bring trained therapy dogs to visit hospital patients and elderly nursing home residents, furthers charitable purposes under Section 501(c)(3),” that ruling does not consider or even mention public health concerns related to such programs.

“In support of its ruling, the IRS cited revenue rulings concluding that providing services to hospital patients and other individuals suffering distress in an effort to east that distress and provide them comfort furthers charitable purposes . . . [and] that activities designed to meet the special needs of the elderly may further charitable purposes.”  See Pet therapy program is a Section 501(c)(3) charitable activity, IRS rules (citations omitted).

However, no matter how well intended and “charitable” these programs are, there are serious potential public health risks from exposure of elderly, sick, immunocompromised patients to zoonotic diseases that pets can carry and transmit.  See, e.g., “Diseases you can share with your pets” previously discussed.

Those in the veterinary community understand these risks, as noted by Dr. Lucas Pantaleon, stating, the “[r]isk of zoonoses also arises with therapy dogs in human hospitals. The dogs go through screening but could bring zoonoses from the hospital back into the community.”  See “Speaker: Animal hospitals must practice infection control” reported by Katie Burns, June 1, 2017.

Researchers at Tufts University recently published the results of a “survey of United States hospitals, eldercare facilities and therapy animal organizations revealed their health and safety policies for therapy animal visits varied widely, with many not following recommended guidelines for animal visitation.”  See, Could Therapy Animal Visitation Pose Health Risks at Patient Facilities?”, June 19, 2017.

The survey included “responses from 45 eldercare facilities, 45 hospitals, and 27 therapy animal organizations across the country on their existing policies related to animal health and behavioral prerequisites for therapy animals and Animal-assisted intervention (‘AAI’) programs.”

Alarmingly, researchers found that many programs had deficient preventive guidelines to at least minimize the potential exposure of zoonotic pathogens from pets to people, finding:

AAI programs have a potential risk of transmission of zoonotic disease—diseases spread between animals and people. This risk is especially high when health, grooming and handwashing protocols are not carefully used. Another potential risk could come from therapy animals eating raw meat-based diets or treats, which are at high risk of being contaminated with bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and Cryptosporidium. These pathogens may pose risks to both humans and animals, and especially immunocompromised patients.

Zoonotic disease transmission has also been reported in people contracting salmonella from backyard poultry, where almost one third of the 790 victims confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “are children younger than 5 years old.”  See “Salmonella victims from backyard flocks more than double,” Food Safety News, July 14, 2017.

The human-animal bond benefits both people and animals, especially the elderly and children, and should be encouraged.  However, proper protocols and controls should be in place to keep everyone healthy.

 

By Sheila Goffe originally p

While the zika virus poses worrisome human health concerns, another potential health problem is brewing that threatens both humans and domesticated animals –the importing of foreign dogs for adoption.

Many people are unaware that the U.S. has become something of a favored nation for countries looking to export their rescue dogs due to several reasons.

First, Americans are big-hearted, and when seeking dogs many chose animals made available through rescues.

Second, there’s a readymade market here – Americans love canines and own an estimated 80 million dogs.

The vast majority of imported rescue dogs are not tracked in the United States – either upon arrival or after they enter rescue channels.

Lastly, import rules on dogs can be easily flouted, allowing foreign exporters to send us their sick animals.

The vast majority of imported rescue dogs are not tracked in the United States – either upon arrival or after they enter rescue channels. Patti Strand, founder and national director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, a non-profit that studies shelter trends and the importation of rescue dogs, estimates that close to one million rescue dogs are imported annually from regions not known for stellar canine health and safety standards. They include dogs from Puerto Rico, Turkey, several countries in the Middle East and as far away as China and Korea. That compares to about 8 million dogs annually acquired as pets in the U.S.

All of this underscores that without improved oversight of pet rescue organizations, there’s no way of definitively identifying how many foreign rescue dogs are put up for adoption here.

These foreign rescues may be well-intentioned, but they are courting disaster.

While it is often a challenge to gather information on an abandoned dog here in the U.S., it is even harder for a dog that originated overseas. Information may be missing, poorly translated or unreliable.

Challenges are especially serious when it comes to health and safety. Animals from other countries are not subject to the health and welfare laws of the U.S. and may arrive carrying serious and infectious canine diseases. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although importation laws require all dogs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian, foreign paperwork is hard to verify and is commonly invalid or forged.

Likewise, the tracking, health and welfare standards that are required for dogs bred in the United States and sold in pet shops do not apply for pets identified as sourced from rescues.

Scores of “puppy mill” bills like New Jersey’s S. 63/A. 2338 that ban pet stores from sourcing professionally-bred pets in lieu of pets sourced from rescues threaten to expand the problem to epic proportions.

The threat to public health is anything but theoretical. On May 30, 2015, eight dogs rescued in Egypt arrived in New York, all but one bound for U.S. rescues. Within days, a dog sent to Virginia became ill and was diagnosed with rabies.

The discovery necessitated an enormous public health investigation involving four state departments of health, three U.S. agencies, the transporting airline and the Egyptian government. Numerous people were interviewed from the airline, rescue organization and veterinarian’s office. In the end, 18 people were vaccinated for rabies either due to direct exposure or concern for possible contact. The rabies vaccination certificate for the dog had been forged, according to the CDC.

This is just one case. The CDC reports a significant uptick in public health concerns and incidents of disease in imported dogs that can be passed between animals and humans.

For example, an outbreak last year in the Midwest of canine influenza that sickened more than 1,100 dogs was traced to the importation of foreign animals, very likely a foreign dog or cat.

“There are multiple international groups who are rescuing dogs from the meat market in Korea and shipping them into the U.S., and we have sketchy quarantine requirements if any at all,” said Dr. Ed Dubovi, director at Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center.

Also at issue is the safety and suitability of foreign rescue dogs as family pets. Sources of dogs that are not socialized or bred to be pets are likely to require special handling and training that typical adopters — and even rescues –are not equipped to provide.

Without knowledgeable care, these dogs will end up back in a shelter situation.

Opening our doors is having other undesirable effects. Though some imported dogs are taken by legitimate U.S. rescues, others are becoming the product of unregulated, informal markets, including online retail “rescues.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, there have been numerous incidents involving smuggling of underage and sick animals. Substandard foreign breeders are taking advantage of all of these avenues into the U.S. market, rescue or otherwise.

The importation of rescue dogs does nothing to address issues at the source, and it actually encourages irresponsible breeding overseas. It has created an incentive for irresponsible brokers to round up street animals, buy dogs from Asian livestock markets and allegedly breed animals specifically for export to U.S. rescue markets. And because the animals are labelled as rescues, standards appear to be optional.

A pipeline for unrestricted imports of foreign “rescue” animals undercuts the mission of U.S. rescues, while creating a potential health and safety crisis.

The CDC is exactly correct in its analysis of the problem and its potential risks to Americans.

“Considering the public health risk posed by importation of animals for the purposes of placing them in adoptive homes in the United States, and the current oversupply of adoptable animals already in the United States, persons and organizations involved with importing pets for the purposes of adoption should consider reevaluating, and potentially redirecting, their current efforts,” the agency wrote.

Plenty of domestic dogs are languishing in shelters and in need of homes. Our duty is to help these dogs first.

Sheila Goffe is Vice President, Government Relations for the American Kennel Club. Follow the AKC on Twitter @akcdoglovers.

 

Animal rescue organizations and animal shelters have replaced pet stores as the primary source of dogs throughout the United States.

Unfathomably, concerns about the health of dogs imported from other states and countries are rarely discussed. Unsuspecting adopters could end up with dogs that have serious, sometimes fatal diseases.

For example, dogs that have been increasingly imported from Puerto Rico may be infested with heartworms and suffering from heartworm disease, which according to the AVMA is “a progressive, life-threatening disease.”

There are reportedly 100,000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico, where abandoning dogs is common and spaying and neutering is not the common practice.

According to “The Sato Project,” a nonprofit organization formed to rescue abandoned & abused dogs from Puerto Rico, heartworm infestation is widespread in Puerto Rico.

Roughly 70% of the dogs The Sato Project rescues are heartworm positive, requiring expensive and lengthy medical treatment.

The AVMA confirms that heartworm is prevalent in dogs in Puerto Rico:

There is a distinct geographic pattern for heartworm disease, with the highest prevalence of heartworm infection in 2015 occurring in the Southeastern states and Puerto Rico.

The American Heartworm Society whose “Mission is to lead the Veterinary Profession & the Public  in the understanding of Heartworm disease,,” explains that heartworm disease “is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.”

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

Heartworm is not the only disease of concern in dogs imported from Puerto Rico for adoption. Rabies cases in dogs from Puerto Rico have been diagnosed, as reported by the CDC:

During 2014, domestic animals accounted for 47.9% of all animals submitted for testing, but only 7.37% (n = 445) of all rabies cases reported, representing a decrease of 4.71% compared with the 467 reported in 2013.

Of the fifty-nine rabid dogs reported in 2014 . . . [m]ost of the rabid dogs were reported from Texas (n = 14 [23.7%]), Puerto Rico (12 [20.3%]), and Oklahoma (9 [15.2]).

While clearly there are abandoned, stray dogs in Puerto Rico in need of homes, these animals may harbor diseases that will decrease their longevity or require significant veterinary care and related expenses, that unwitting adopters may not be aware of.

Moving the unwanted stray dogs from Puerto Rico to adopters on the mainland will not stop the continued overpopulation on that island without more.

Animal rescue organizations like The Sato Project and Second Chance Animal Rescue importantly do not just remove dogs from Puerto Rico and offer them for adoption, they also educate local residents about the importance of responsible pet ownership, which includes preventing unplanned dog breeding by proper sterilization of owned dogs.  That still may not be enough to change the landscape on the island.

.At the same time, responsibly and purposely-bred dogs should not be banned to force pet owners to obtain dogs only from rescue sources.

The management of feral cat colonies is extremely controversial.

On one hand there are people and nonprofits who are vehemently protective of these colonies, feeding and caring for these homeless animals.  On the other hand, there are concerns about the impact these colonies have on local wildlife and concerns about the diseases and parasites these animals can transmit to other animals and humans.

In Illinois, where legislators have identified these concern, a recently introduced bill SJR 53

would create the Feral Cat Task Force to examine the Animal Control Act, the Humane Care for Animals Act, the Animal Welfare Act, and any other relevant statutory provisions and make comprehensive written recommendations for change.

The 18-member task force will have quite a task sorting out this highly controversial issue.

As reported by the National Geographic News (from a 2004 report):

Some feline experts now estimate 70 million feral cats live in the United States, the consequence of little effort to control the population and of the cat’s ability to reproduce quickly.

The number concerns wildlife and ornithology organizations that believe these stealthy predators decimate bird populations and threaten public health. The organizations want the cats removed from the environment and taken to animal shelters, where they are often killed.

Feline predators are believed to prey on common species, such as cardinals, blue jays, and house wrens, as well as rare and endangered species, such as piping plovers and Florida scrub jays.

Cats, like other mammals can spread disease and parasites, facts that have been used in support of laws adopted by local jurisdictions to limit or eliminate feral cat colonies.

On its website, the CDC lists “[t]he most common diseases associated with cats that can cause human illness”[1] including: Campylobacteriosis; Cat-scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae); Cheyletiellosis; Cryptosporidiosis; Echinococcosis; Giardia; hookworms; MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus); Pasteurellosis; Plague (Yersinia pestis); Rabies; Ringworm (Microsporum canis); Roundworm (Toxocara spp.); Salmonellosis (Salmonella spp.); Sporotrichosis (Sporothrix schenckii); Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii).

 

The AVMA recently revised its policy on “free-roaming and abandoned feral cats,” a process it described as:

the culmination of more than two years’ work by the Animal Welfare Committee, which is comprised of veterinarians and others representing expertise and a wide range of perspectives regarding animal welfare. Although the Animal Welfare Committee includes among its members representatives from the feline, avian, and wildlife veterinary communities, it did not tackle this question alone, but instead asked the Committee on Environmental Issues and the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine to assist with its review. Recognizing that feral cat management is a highly controversial issue, the group revised the policy to reflect new information, help build consensus, and provide leadership per the management of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats.

In New Jersey, the Department of Health “does not endorse or oppose the concept of establishing properly managed cat colonies utilizing trap-neuter-return (TNR) techniques.”

However, if a municipality wishes to allow cat colonies, they should develop standards through ordinances for the proper and managed operation of such colonies, based on the guidelines below, that would provide accountability and oversight by the health officer and animal control officer.

There remains a large overpopulation of cats, unlike dogs, in New Jersey and other Northeastern States, who comprise the greatest percentage of animal shelter residents, contributing to increasing costs to care for these animals.

[1] For a description of these diseases, click here or visit the CDC website.

Pets are increasingly important in this and other developed countries.

Many pet owners are unaware of the diseases and parasites their pets may harbor that can cause illness to humans.  This is one reason that proper veterinary care through routine visits to a veterinarian is so important.

The transmission of diseases between people and pets is the basis for the “One Health Initiative” whose goal is to “unite human and veterinary medicine.”  Check out their website, where you will find information about the history of this organization and the important work they are undertaking to share information about the new or re-emerging diseases, 70% of which are zoonotic (spread between animals and humans) or vector-borne (transmitted by vectors, including insects).

As recently discussed here, cats, like other animals can harbor and transmit a number of diseases and parasites to humans.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading public health institute in the United States, contains a plethora of scientific information and data on its website, including “[t]he most common diseases associated with cats that can cause human illness.”

The description of these diseases and parasitic disorders is republished below to demonstrate why it is so important for cat owners to take of their pets, which, in turn will help keep all family members healthy.

Campylobacteriosis

Campylobacter is a type of bacteria that spreads through contaminated food (meat and eggs), water, or contact with stool (poop) of infected animals. Cats infected with Campylobacter may show no signs of illness at all or may have diarrhea.

Most people who become sick with campylobacteriosis will have diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within 2-5 days after exposure to the organism. Campylobacter bacteria can cause serious life-threatening infections in infants, older persons, and those with weakened immune systems.

Cat-scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae)

Cat-scratch disease is a bacterial disease that people may get after being bitten or scratched by a cat. About 40% of cats carry the bacteria at some time in their lives, although kittens younger than 1 year of age are more likely to have it. Most cats with this infection show no signs of illness.

People who are bitten or scratched by an affected cat may develop a mild infection 3-14 days later at the site of the wound. The infection may worsen and cause fever, headache, poor appetite, and exhaustion. Later, the person’s lymph nodes closest to the original scratch or bite can become swollen, tender, or painful. Seek medical attention if you believe you have cat-scratch disease.

Cheyletiellosis

Cheyletiellosis is a mild, short-term skin inflammation caused by mites that feed on skin cells. Cheyletiella is spread through contact with infested animals. Pets such as rabbits and adult cats may not show signs of infestation. However, affected kittens may have patches of scaly skin with dandruff.

The most common symptoms of cheyletiellosis in people include itching, redness, and raised bumps on areas of the skin that touched the infested animal.  Cheyletiellosis in people generally resolves on its own.

Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through contaminated food or water from an infected person or animal. Cryptosporidiosis in cats is rare, but they can carry the germ without showing any signs of illness.

Cryptosporidiosis can cause profuse, watery diarrhea with cramping, abdominal pain, and nausea in people and many types of animals. Illness in people is usually self-limiting and lasts only 2-4 days, but can become severe in people with weakened immune systems.

Echinococcosis

Echinococcosis is a disease caused by eating or drinking food and water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or through contact with an infected animal. Cats become infected by eating tissue of an infected animal. Cats rarely show any signs of disease, but can be infected with a large number of adult tapeworms.

Although Echinococcus invades many different organs of the body, most people who are infected with the disease will not have any signs of illness for years. Symptoms start when the slow-growing cysts become large enough to press on the organs they have invaded. The tapeworms grow slowly in several different organs of the body, most commonly the liver and lungs.

Giardia

Giardia is a parasite that causes diarrhea in animals and people. Giardia is transmitted to animals and people through food or water contaminated with stool.

Symptoms for animals and people include diarrhea, greasy stools, and dehydration. People can also have abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can last 1-2 weeks.

Hookworms

Cat hookworms are tiny worms that can spread through contact with contaminated soil or sand. Cats can also become infected with hookworms through accidentally ingesting the parasite from the environment or through their mother’s milk or colostrum. Hookworm infections can cause anemia and weight loss in kittens. Severe infections can be fatal.

People become infected with cat hookworms while walking barefoot, kneeling, or sitting on ground contaminated with stool (poop) of infected animals. Hookworm larvae enter the top layers of skin and cause an itchy reaction called cutaneous larva migrans. A red squiggly line may appear where the larvae have migrated under the skin. Symptoms usually resolve without medical treatment in 4-6 weeks.

MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

Staphylococcus aureus is a common type of bacteria that is normally found on the skin of people and animals. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the same bacterium that has become resistant to some antibiotics. Cats and other animals often can carry MRSA without being sick, but MRSA can cause a variety of infections, including of the skin, respiratory tract, and urinary tract.

MRSA can be transmitted back and forth between people and animals through direct contact. In people, MRSA most often causes skin infections that can range from mild to severe. If left untreated, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs and cause life-threatening infections.

Pasteurellosis

Pasteurellosis is a bacterial disease associated with animal bites and scratches. Pasteurella is a normal bacterium that lives in the mouths of healthy cats. The bacteria do not typically make cats sick; however, cats can develop abscesses or skin infections in places where they were scratched or bitten by another animal.

In people, pasteurellosis causes painful wound and skin infections. In severe cases, it can cause widespread infection and might even affect the nervous system.

Plague (Yersinia pestis)

Plague is a bacterial disease in animals and people that can lead to serious illness or death if left untreated. Cats are highly susceptible to plague and their symptoms are similar to those experienced by humans. Cats that hunt wild rodents and rabbits in the western, particularly the southwestern, United States are at greatest risk of becoming infected.

People most often become infected through flea bites or from contact with body fluids of infected animals. Bubonic plague is the most common form; symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, malaise, and swollen lymph nodes. The other two forms of plague, septicemic and pneumonic, cause more severe disease. Cats infected with plague can infect people through bites, scratches, coughs, or sneezes.

Rabies

Rabies, a fatal neurologic disease in animals and people, is caused by a virus. Animals and people are most commonly infected through bites from rabid animals. Infected cats may have a variety of signs, but most often have sudden behavioral changes and progressive paralysis. Cats may also appear restless, pant, and attack other animals, people, or objects. Animals with rabies typically die within a few days of appearing sick. Owners should vaccinate their cats against this deadly disease.

The first symptoms in people can start days to months after exposure; they include generalized weakness, fever, and headache. Within a few days, symptoms progress to confusion, anxiety, and behavioral changes. If you have been bitten by a cat or other animal and feel that there is a risk for rabies, contact your health care provider right away.  Once symptoms appear, it is almost always too late for treatment.

Ringworm (Microsporum canis)

Ringworm is a condition caused by a fungus that can infect skin, hair, and nails of both people and animals. Ringworm is passed from animals to people through direct contact with an infected animal’s skin or hair. Cats infected with ringworm typically have small areas of hair loss around their ears, face, or legs, with scaly or crusty skin. But some cats carrying ringworm have no signs of infection at all. Kittens are most commonly affected.

Ringworm infections in people can appear on almost any area of the body. These infections are usually itchy. Redness, scaling, cracking of the skin, or a ring-shaped rash may occur. If the infection involves the scalp or beard, hair may fall out. Infected nails become discolored or thick and may possibly crumble.

Roundworm (Toxocara spp.)

Toxocara roundworms cause a parasitic disease known as toxocariasis. Cats and people can become infected by swallowing roundworm eggs from the environment. Cats can also become infected as young kittens. Larval worms can come through the milk of a mother cat, passing the infection on to her kittens. Infected kittens usually do not seem sick. Those that do may have mild diarrhea, dehydration, rough coat, and a pot-bellied appearance.

In people, children are most often affected with roundworm. There are two forms of the disease in people: ocular larva migrans and visceral larva migrans. Ocular larva migrans happens when the larvae invade the retina (tissue in the eye) and cause inflammation, scarring, and possibly blindness. Visceral larva migrans occurs when the larvae invade parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, or central nervous system.

 

Salmonellosis (Salmonella spp.)

Salmonella spreads to people through contaminated food (eggs and meat) or contact with stool of certain animals, including cats. Cats can get salmonellosis through eating infected birds. While it usually does not make the cats sick, Salmonella infection can cause serious illness when it is passed to people.

People infected with Salmonella bacteria may have diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or abdominal cramps. Infants, elderly persons, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.

Sporotrichosis

Sporotrichosis is a fungal disease that can affect both animals and people. It is usually acquired from the environment through a cut or scrape in the skin but can be acquired from contact with animals as well. Infection with sporotrichosis in cats can range from no signs of illness to very serious disease. Signs often begin with small draining wounds that become raised lumps with the surface eroded away. The disease can worsen.

Three forms of sporotrichosis can infect people.

  • The first form is the cutaneous or skin form, which can progress from small raised areas on the skin to infection invading the lymph nodes and forming nodules that eventually ulcerate.

  • The second is the disseminated form, which occurs when the infection affects the internal organs and bones.

  • In the third form, the pulmonary form, a person acquires the infection through inhalation the fungus into the lungs, which often leads to chronic disease similar to tuberculosis.

Toxoplasmosis

Most healthy people who become infected with Toxoplasma show no signs or symptoms. However, pregnant women and people who have weakened immune systems may be at risk for serious health complications.

  • Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can spread to people and animals through contaminated soil, water, or meat, and contact with stool from an infected cat. Cats are the main source of infection to other animals but rarely appear sick.

  • The latter two forms are potentially fatal.

The humane standards of care of animals are constantly changing, as informed by scientific advances. Animal agriculture, in particular, has been evolving for decades. Livestock housing techniques, like other husbandry practices, have continuously evolved to protect animals from exposure to diseases, pests, environmental extremes, and from each other. Animal scientists and veterinarians continuously research methods, techniques and equipment to maximize animal comfort, while providing necessary protection.

Some recent advances exemplify the importance of continued research in disease protection and husbandry techniques that benefit animals and humans alike.

As reported in the National Hog Farmer, Merck Animal Health has been granted “licensure of its Prescription Product, RNA Particle vaccine platform from the USDA.”

Merck Animal Health described its innovative vaccine platform, and its significance to animal industries:

The RP technology platform is used to make vaccines for swine, bovine, equine, avian, companion animal and farmed aquaculture diseases. Pathogens are collected from a farm and specific genes are sequenced and synthetically inserted into the platform creating RNA particles, making safe, potent vaccines able to provide herd-specific protection. This system was instrumental in producing the first conditionally licensed vaccine to help control porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a deadly virus that has killed more than eight million piglets since suddenly emerging in the United States in 2013. It also was utilized to produce a conditionally licensed vaccine against H5 avian influenza, which was subsequently awarded a USDA Stockpile in October.

Perhaps this platform could be used to develop effective vaccines to protect horses infected with the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus which has increasingly spread throughout equine racing, show, and pleasure barns and facilities, resulting in prolonged quarantines, and unfortunately, illness and death.

Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation recently announced its intention to fund more than $1 million in projects, as reported by Matt Hegarty in the Daily Racing Form:

The 11 new projects include a study of the latency of equine herpesvirus in horse populations. A strain of equine herpesvirus, EHV-1, has wreaked havoc on racing circuits when the highly contagious disease has been detected at racetracks or training facilities, leading to quarantines and shipping restrictions.

Advances have not been limited to disease prevention.

Researchers have announced a probable solution to the culling of male chicks in the egg industry. Because males do not produce eggs, they are culled.

Now, as reported by ABC/Australia, scientists studying poultry diseases at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong “accidentally . . . made a breakthrough with biotechnology” discovering a way to identify male chick embryos before they hatched, making the culling of billions of male baby chicks unnecessary.

The scientists discovered they could inject an embryo with “a green fluorescent protein gene placed on the male chromosome” which could “ensure the males are never born, let alone culled.”

It is important to note that without biomedical research involving animals, these advances, which benefit animals, would not have been possible.

A new bill in Kansas would amend the Kansas pet animal ac, adding licensing and other requirements for  animal rescue networks and pet animal foster homes.

House Bill No 2514, introduced during the Session of 2016 defines “rescue network,” “rescue network manager,” and “pet animal foster home” as:

“Rescue network” means the premises of a rescue network manager and all pet animal foster homes organized under that rescue network manager that provide temporary care for one or more dogs or cats not owned by an animal shelter that maintains a central facility for keeping animals.

“Rescue network manager” means the individual designated by a rescue network to carry out the responsibilities prescribed in section 1, and amendments thereto.

“Pet animal foster home” means the registered premises of an individual who has written and signed an agreement to provide temporary care for one or more dogs or cats owned by an animal shelter or a rescue network that is licensed by the state.

The law would permit rescues and animal shelters to house animals in foster homes, but requires compliance with the Kansas pet animal act at those homes, and also requires record keeping, and an annual fee “of not more than $10 to the department of agriculture for each subordinate pet animal foster home.”

The following provisions would govern rescue networks and require supervision and oversight needed in these often overlooked and under-regulated facilities:

 

New Section 1 (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a rescue network unless a rescue network manager license has been obtained from the commissioner. Applications for each such license shall be made in writing on a form provided by the commissioner. The license period shall be for the license year ending June 30 following the issuance date.

(b) Rescue networks may utilize pet animal foster homes. Each rescue network shall be responsible for ensuring that pet animal foster homes subordinate to such rescue network comply with the Kansas pet animal act and all relevant rules and regulations. Rescue networks shall keep records of all pet animal foster homes that house animals and shall pay annually a fee of not more than $10 to the department of agriculture for each subordinate pet animal foster home.

(c) Each rescue network shall designate a manager who shall carry out the following duties:

(1) Approve the membership of each pet animal foster home in the rescue network;

(2) supervise intake of dogs and cats into the rescue network;

(3) monitor and ensure compliance of each subordinate pet animal foster home with all relevant laws and rules and regulations;

(4) maintain on such rescue network manager’s premises records pertaining to the adoption, placement or other disposition of each dog and cat receiving temporary care from the rescue network, membership of the rescue network, and any other records required by law or rules and regulations; and

(5) such other administrative duties as the commissioner may adopt by rules and regulations.

Regulation of offsite facility adoption events would also be required:

New Sec. 2. (a) Once an animal shelter or rescue network manager license has been obtained, the animal shelter or the rescue network manager may host adoption events at a location other than the licensed premises, so long as all applicable rules and regulations are followed at such other locations. Once the date and location of an adoption event has been determined, the animal shelter or rescue network shall provide advance notice to the animal health commissioner or the commissioner’s authorized representative.

Animal offered for adoption (aka “sale”) from animal rescue groups come from unknown and random sources, often with diseases, parasites and congenital or behavioral abnormalities that unknowing adopters must contend with.  Increased regulation over the sales of pets from these entities is long overdue.

Farmers are often accused of raising livestock on “factory farms” and therefore treating their animals cruelly if they are house their animals indoors. Of course the opposite is true. The purpose of indoor housing is to protect livestock from harsh external environment, and to decrease exposure to internal and external parasites and diseases spread by wildlife, insects or other vectors, thereby improving their overall health.

Animal agriculture, like any other science-based practice, continues to evolve as informed by research by animal scientists and veterinarians who search for environments that provide for animal health and welfare, while minimizing risk to farmers, their employees and the environment.

While activists insist that livestock are better off living outdoors, many studies have proven the opposite. Yet another report was recently published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, “Diversity and Prevalence of Ectoparasites on Backyard Chicken Flocks in California,” which identified the increased prevalence of ectoparasites in “backyard chickens” as compared to commercial raised chickens, housed indoors.

The researchers reported ectoparasites collected on 80% of the premises in southern California surveyed included:

lice (Phthiraptera: Ischnocera and Amblycera), fleas (Siphonaptera), and mites (Acari: Astigmata and Mesostigmata). Lice were the most prevalent and abundant of all ectoparasite groups . . . . The chicken body louse, M. stramineus, was collected on 50% of premises and 36% of birds. It was the most abundant species recovered and sometimes was quite dense on individual birds, with dozens to hundreds of specimens seen.

Notably, “the species [the researchers] collected in backyard flocks have been rare or absent in commercial battery-cage layer flocks in southern California over the past 30 years.”

These results are not surprising.

Increased prevalence of infectious disease and parasites is a well-known risk of outdoor housing of livestock.

This is reflected in USDA’s pseudorabies program (a disease affected primarily swine) which requires more rigorous testing and other requirements of “transitional herds” as compared to “commercial herds” based on the increased risk of the spread of this virus in transitional herds, which the agency defines as:

Those feral swine that are captive or swine that have reasonable opportunities to be exposed to feral swine.

In comparison, USDA defines “Commercial production swine” as

Those swine that are continuously managed and have adequate facilities and practices to prevent exposure to either transitional production or feral swine.

These designations have real-life consequences for farmers, states who implement the federal programs, and ultimately the ability of the entire national industry to export swine and pork products since access to interstate and international markets is based on the disease status of a region, state and country.

Like all other issues involving animals and their care, the safe and humane housing of livestock and poultry is complicated and requires a careful analysis of a multitude of factors to determine what is best for animals, the people who care for them, the public and the environment.

In late December the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article in MMWR titled “Rabies in a Dog Imported from Egypt with a Falsified Rabies Vaccination Certificate — Virginia, 2015” which, because of its significance to human and animal health, is republished in full here and (except for the accompanying table available here).

To briefly recap the events, a rabies-infected dog taken from the streets of Cairo by an animal rescue group and transported with her puppy, 6 other dogs and 27 cats were imported into the US for adoption, arriving in New York on May 30, 2015 and then distributed to rescue groups or homes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

The infected dog became sick and was euthanized on June 5 after exhibiting signs consistent with rabies infection. The comprehensive public health investigation that followed revealed that the infected dog’s rabies vaccination certification had been intentionally “falsified to avoid exclusion of the dog from entry under CDC’s current dog importation regulations.”

In addition to the CDC, the investigation involved the following international, federal, state and local agencies: the Virginia Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the foreign airline that transported the animals, the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The cost of the investigation was not reported.

Eighteen (18) people received rabies postexposure prophylaxis.

While the investigators determined that the infected dog had been crated with her puppy and separated from the other imported animals, all the dogs from this shipment were vaccinated and/or revaccinated for rabies and held in confinement for up to 6 months. Additional dogs exposed to the puppy were revaccinated for rabies and held in confinement for a shorter period of time “as recommended by the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control.”

The CDC warns that:

[I]mportations of dogs, and potentially other domestic animals that are inadequately vaccinated against rabies, from countries where rabies is endemic continues to present a risk to an unaware U.S. public. Officials, veterinarians, and caretakers might be unable to verify the validity of rabies vaccination certificates issued before an animal’s importation.