Letter: Animal pandemic strikes again

Letters to the editor

50 million Chinese locked down. 15 countries affected. Five confirmed cases in the U.S. These dramatic headlines announce one more pandemic caused by our abuse of animals.

Indeed, 61 percent of the 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans originate with animals. These so-called zoonetic diseases claiming millions of human lives include Asian flu, Hong Kong flu, West Nile flu, bird flu, swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola, HIV, SARS, and yellow fever. The pandemic “Spanish” flu of 1918 may have killed as many as 50 million people worldwide.

Western factory farms and Asian street markets are virtual breeding grounds for infectious diseases. Sick, crowded, highly stressed animals in close contact with raw flesh, feces, and urine provide ideal incubation media for viruses. As these microbes reach humans, they mutate to defeat the new host’s immune system, then propagate on contact.

Each of us can help end these deadly pandemics by replacing animal products in our diet with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These foods don’t carry flu viruses, or government warning labels, are touted by every major health advocacy organization, and were the recommended fare in the Garden of Eden. The internet offers ample recipes and transition hints.

Tate Harringer

Tillamook

Chinese Officials Announce “Highly Pathogenic” Strain Of Bird Flu That Can Spread To Humans

After the deadly coronavirus, China is now reporting an outbreak of a dangerous strain of H5N1 bird flu. The outbreak was reported at Shaoyang city in Hunan province and has already killed 4000+ chickens. And, in the wake of the outbreak, Chinese authorities have culled over 17,000 chickens.

People can get infected by coming in to close contact with infected live or dead chickens or through H5N1-contaminated environments and the rate of mortality is about 60%, according to the WHO. They also added that spread of the virus from person to person is unusual.

The farm that saw the outbreak is just south of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus which has now claimed hundreds of lives and spread to other countries, including India, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, the United States and Canada. Experts say that meat from wildlife trade may be where the virus originated and a temporary ban has been placed on wild animal trade.

The epidemics also highlight the root of the problem: industrialized animal agriculture. Chickens, cows, pigs and other animals are bred in close quarters with little or no ventilation, living in their own filth, all to cater to our appetite for meat. Now, more than ever, governments and citizens need to take note of how and what we eat is affecting the planet in more ways than one. By simply choosing to go plant-based, one can help reduce the demand for farmed meat worldwide.

*Feature image courtesy Moving Animals Archive

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Live finches being smuggled into US in hair rollers discovered

Live finches being smuggled into US in hair rollers discovered

In this photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, some of the 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers found Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport are displayed. Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana had the songbirds in a duffel bag. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)

NEW YORK — Customs officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport say they found 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers.

Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana on Saturday had the songbirds in a duffel bag.

The New York Times reports officials believe the birds were brought to the U.S. to participate in singing contests. Customs officials say people bet on how many times the finches chirp, and a winning male finch can sell for up to $10,000.

The birds were turned over to veterinarians to the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the passenger was sent back to Guyana.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says bird smuggling could threaten agriculture through the possible spread of diseases such as bird flu.

Customs officers have seized about 184 finches this year.

More Than 1000 Migratory Birds Found Dead at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake

M

By TWC India Edit Team

2 days ago

TWC India

Representational image of migratory birds River Ganga

(IANS)

In a shocking episode, more than 1,000 migratory birds were found dead under mysterious circumstances at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake on Monday, November 11.

Located near Phulera in Jaipur, Sambhar Lake witnesses a vast number of winged visitors during the winter season. Tourists and ornithologists from across the world regularly visit the region as it plays host to various migratory species of birds including the Northern Shoveler, Green Bee-Eater, Cinnamon Teal coming from Siberia, north Asia and other places. As the winter season progresses, the forest department is running against time to identify and address the cause of such mass deaths.

While the carcasses were immediately buried, officials have sent samples of the birds’ visceral remains to the forensic science laboratory in Bhopal. Experts say no signs of bird flu were observed till now, and the likely contamination of water could be the trigger. Further examination of birds’ internal organs could help pinpoint the cause of death.

Sambhar Salt Lake, Rajasthan

(Credits: Bhagirath/BCCL Jaipur)

While officials claim that the death toll is 1,500, the locals claim that the number of dead birds could be around 5,000. The dead bodies were found around a section of the Sambhar Salt Lake named Ratan Talab. Different species of waders and ducks, including the likes of pallas’ gull, ruddy shelduck, ruddy turnstone, gull-billed tern, redshanks, black-winged stilts, common coots, plovers, avocets, shovelers and sandpipers, were among the waterbirds whose dead bodies were found at the lake.

The officials buried the bird carcasses in a ditch. While a total of 669 dead birds were buried, many others were left unattended as it was difficult for the forest department personnel to go into the slippery muddy areas to retrieve their carcasses.

The incident of mysterious bird deaths is a second in Rajasthan within a week. Thirty-seven Demoiselle cranes were found dead in Vijay Sagar Lake in the Alwar district of Rajasthan on last Thursday. However, no link has been found in the two mass-death incidents, as the cranes supposedly died after eating poisoned grain. Officials have sent their viscera too for investigation.

The Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland saltwater lake. Located in Jaipur district of Rajasthan, it spreads across 190 to 230 square kilometres.

The lake has always attracted a host of migratory birds that travel tens of thousands of kilometres, typically to escape harsh winter conditions. However, the developmental activities around Sambhar in recent years, including the extension of salt pan operations, new settlements and changes in the weather, have reportedly decreased the number of birds flocking to the lake.

(with inputs from IANS)

Officials hunt for suspected pigeon killer after 40 found dead in Somerset

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

OFFICIALS in Somerset are hunting a suspected bird poisoner after more than 40 pigeons were killed – including some that fell out of the sky dead.

Investigators including police and the RSPCA are looking into a spate of dead pigeons in Wells and say it is possible they were poisoned.

The birds started appearing in the High Street and beyond at the end of July – on roads, pavements and in people’s gardens.

The birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner in the city.

As many as 40 dead birds have been reported.

One woman found three in her garden and there there was even a report of one falling out of the sky and landing on a woman carrying a coffee.

It was suggested the birds might have been suffering from “pigeon canker”, a disease prevalent during the breeding season.

But autopsy carried out voluntarily vets proved ‘inconclusive’.

Wells City Councillor Celia Wride said: “I must say poisoning was my immediate reaction at the time.

“If this is a case of somebody putting down some killer feed for them we need to find out and do something about it. This is not the way to go about things.”

The matter has been referred to the police who passed it on to Natural England, the Government quango that advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on conservation and wildlife.

Natural England passed the matter onto the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has responsibility through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.

It is an offence to injure or kill a wild bird under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except under licence, and offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

Tests for bird flu and West Nile Virus carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) proved negative.

A spokesman for the HSE said: “While HSE are unable to confirm the range of tests carried out by APHA as part of this post-mortem, the report provided did not state a view that disease was responsible for the pigeons’ deaths.”

Further analysis of tissue samples is currently being carried out by Fera Science Limited to determine if pesticides were used. This can take up to eight weeks.

If the toxicological report does indicate pesticide use, this information will be considered along with the field investigation report to try to identify whether the exposure took place from an approved use or not.

If abuse is suspected, then the information will be referred back to the police who are responsible for catching the pigeon poisoner.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We are not sure what has happened, but we believe they may have been poisoned.

“The pigeons were taken to a vet by a member of the public and post mortems carried out.”

As well as being a deliberate act of poisoning the spokesperson said any potential source could also include poisonous substances not being safely stowed away.

Anyone with information that might help with the investigations is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 in confidence.

Hair curlers hid 34 singing finches in a flier’s carry-on, NY prosecutors say

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The hair curlers in a flier’s carry-on luggage were worth about $100,000 — thanks to the 34 prized finches that were stuffed inside them, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.

Francis Gurahoo, a 39-year-old Connecticut man, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on Sunday when he was caught trying to smuggle the live birds from Guyana into the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The birds compete in singing contests in Queens and Brooklyn, and Gurahoo confessed that he was planning to sell each one at $3,000 a bird, according to prosecutors. He’s set to appear in federal court on Monday afternoon.

In the last few years, JFK customs agents have stopped a number of travelers trying to sneak the seed-eating birds into the U.S. “in various manners without declaring the birds on the required importation forms,” a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services special agent said in a criminal complaint, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office shared with McClatchy.

About a year ago, two other men were accused of similarly smuggling birds at JFK, in that instance using socks as well as hair curlers, McClatchy reported in April 2018.

rollers.jpg
The man said he planned to sell each bird for around $3,000, according to federal prosecutors.UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

The special agent said in the complaint against Gurahoo birds can sell for $5,000 or more, and that “an individual willing to smuggle finches into the United States from Guyana can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the New York area.”

During the singing contests, which are often held in public parks, two birds sing against each other after spectators place bets, and then a judge declares a winner, the special agent said.

“Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after,” the agent wrote.

The agent said that searches of Fish and Wildlife Service databases showed Gurahoo hadn’t applied for or been given a permit to import the birds. He’s accused of violating federal rules that require animal importers to declare wildlife and get permits, as well as federal rules requiring imported commercial birds to be quarantined for a month.

“This requirement exists to prevent the spread of diseases carried by foreign birds, including Newcastle disease — a contagious avian virus than can infect humans and domestic poultry — and bird flu,” the special agent wrote.

Changing climate may affect animal-to-human disease transfer

zoonotic diseases

Climate change could affect occurrences of diseases like bird-flu and Ebola, with environmental factors playing a larger role than previously understood in animal-to-human disease transfer, Australian researchers have found.

The team, a collaboration between The University of Queensland and Swansea University—and whose research is published in Trends in Parasitology—have been looking at how different environments provide opportunities for animal-to-human diseases, known as zoonotic diseases, to interact with and infect new host species, including humans.

These diseases are caused by pathogens—for example, viruses, bacteria or parasitic worms—that cross from animals to humans, including notorious infections like bird flu, rabies virus and Ebola.

“In the past, we’ve primarily looked at how many different types of animal species a pathogen infects—widely considered an indicator of its risk to shift between host species,” said Dr Nicholas Clark, from UQ’s School of Veterinary Science.

“This is just one factor, and we’ve found that how infected animals are related is also important.

“But importantly, our research also shows that different environments provide new opportunities for pathogens to interact with and infect new host species,” Dr Clark added.

Dr Konstans Wells, from Swansea University, led the team’s review of a growing number of research studies, demonstrating that this ‘host shifting’, where a pathogen moves between animal species, is linked to the environment.

“Now that we know that environmental conditions are key, the question is: how can we develop models to predict disease moving between species in times of global environmental change?” Dr Wells said.

“As a recent study that we published in Ecology Letters found, climate change may constrain or facilitate the spread of diseases like avian malaria, and this is just one example.

“We need to find out more information about how climate alters animal-to-human shifts, and this might help us build a new modelling framework, which could help us forecast disease spread.”

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Man jailed six weeks for illegal import of two birds and animal cruelty

Two zebra doves were crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in a man's pants during a foiled attempt to smuggle in the birds.
Two zebra doves were crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in a man’s pants during a foiled attempt to smuggle in the birds.PHOTO: AVA

SINGAPORE – A 46-year-old man was sentenced to six weeks in jail on Wednesday (Sept 19), after he was convicted of animal cruelty and illegally importing two birds.

Abdul Rahman Husain tried to smuggle two live zebra doves into Singapore on May 12 without an import licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), said a joint statement from AVA and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

ICA officers had stopped Rahman for checks at Woodlands Checkpoint when they detected the two doves crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in his pants.

The birds were found to be in poor condition, and Rahman’s action was deemed by AVA to have caused unnecessary suffering to the birds. The birds were seized and placed under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Rahman was sentenced to six weeks’ jail for illegal import of the birds, and another six weeks’ jail for failing to ensure that the birds were not subjected to unnecessary suffering.

Both sentences will run concurrently.

Anyone convicted of smuggling animals and birds into Singapore can be fined up to $10,000, and jailed for up to a year.

Animals that are smuggled into Singapore may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country.

Deadly bird flu H7N9 spreads worldwide due to China refusal to give samples to help with production of vaccine

Deadly bird flu Deadly bird flu H7N9 is spreading all over the world cause China is refusing to give virus samples to United Kingdom and US in order to produce vaccine. As it was known Chinese authorities have refused to give sample of the virus cause it possibly breaks WHO rules.

Deadly worlwide pandemic will be caused by a stain of bird flue,as experts warn cause the country is decreasing efforts to product vaccines.  As it was also reported UK and US have tried to convice China in order to get the virus H7N9 samples in order to protect humans from the disease.

Professor Ian Jones, from the University of Reading said: ‘If the virus were to jump it would become a pandemic strain.’

Dr Michael Callahan, a disease expert at Harvard University warned: ‘Jeopardizing US access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation’s ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days.’

The virus H7N9 is not causing symptoms to birds but to humans could have deadly results. Tests have shown that it could cause caughing fever, breathing problems, pneumonia or organ failure and worst of all could have deadly results.

WHO earlier this year ranked the bird flu as one of the major pandemic treats.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam UK Government’s deputy chief medical officer, said: ‘[H7N9] is an example of another virus which has proven its ability to transmit from birds to humans. It’s possible that it could be the cause of the next pandemic.’

China risks sparking global pandemic with new deadly bird flu strain

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1010616/Bird-flu-news-China-UK-pandemic

CHINA is endangering millions of lives and could cause of a global pandemic by refusing to share the latest strain of deadly bird flu with British scientists, experts have warned.

China risks pandemic with deadly bird flu strain

China risks global pandemic with new deadly bird flu strain (Image: GETTY)

Countries are usually happy to share viral samples in the common interest of stopping the spread of dangerous viruses, under an agreement established by the World Health Organisation.

But China has so far caused outrage by refusing to do this, despite a request reportedly made more than a year ago by top British scientists.

There have been at least 1,625 cases of H7N9 in humans so far in China. About 40 per cent of those people infected have died.

The UK and United States have prioritised gathering as much intelligence as possible on the virus, which England’s deputy chief medical officer warned is a strong candidate for becoming the next global flu pandemic.

Jonathan Van-Tam said: “[H7N9] is an example of another virus which has proven its ability to transmit from birds to humans. It’s possible that it could be the cause of the next pandemic.”

The virus cannot currently be passed from one human to another, and most people infected so far came in to close contact with poultry.

However, it is said to be only a few mutations away from being able to transfer between humans.

If this was to occur then scientists fear the virus could could become as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed up to 100 million people a century ago.

How bird flu could become a worldwide PANDEMIC

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China bird flu pandemic risk

Bird flu in China mostly spreads through chickens (Image: GETTY)

They want to study any changes in its genetic structure, to help develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Prof Ian Jones, an expert in virology at the University of Reading, said: “If the virus is going to jump, you want to be ahead of the game with a vaccine.”

China reportedly shared early forms of H7N9 in 2013 and 2016 with other countries.

But a request said to have been made by the UK more than a year ago – for samples of the latest strain – was said by a source to have been ignored.

China has also snubbed approaches from the USA for over 12 months.

The virus was first identified in humans in 2013, but may have been common among birds for much longer.

It generally does not have a visible affect on birds, but symptoms among humans include a high fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Those with the severe form of the disease develop acute respiratory distress syndrome – where the lungs cannot provide the body with enough oxygen – septic shock and multi-organ failure.

China was said to have given no reason for its failure to share samples of the virus with other countries.