Heart in mouth: Moose hunters worry parasite may ruin organ-eating tradition

Some New Brunswick hunters who eat the hearts of moose are wondering if they can keep the tradition alive after finding white spots on some of the organs this year.

“I’ve been hunting moose for 25 years and we always save the heart,” hunter Charles Leblanc wrote on Facebook. “We cook it up at the camp and everybody loves it. Has anyone else seen white spot on their moose heart this year? For us, it’s the first time.”

Leblanc lives in Cocagne but hunted this year near Harcourt.

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Two of the five moose he and his family killed had the white spots, which gave the seasoned hunter a bad feeling.

“Nobody wanted to take a chance and try them,” Leblanc said over the phone Wednesday.

The first infected heart he came across only had a few spots but the second one was full of them.

After his Facebook post, other hunters chimed in with similar experiences.

Tastes like liver

Eating moose heart has been a “treat” Leblanc has enjoyed since he began hunting with his father-in-law in 1993.

“It tastes best when cut thinly and cooked on a barbecue like a slice of steak,” Leblanc said.

“Everybody loves it. It’s basically like liver. It’s less strong than liver. You cut it all up and fry it in butter.”

Leblanc, whose diet depends on moose meat for part of the year, is concerned the white spots on the heart have greater consequences.

“My concern is, is there something wrong with the rest of the meat from that moose? We haven’t talked to the meat cutter yet. He might find those white spots in the meat.”

Parasite is likely

Although several ideas about the abnormalities have floated around online, wildlife pathologist Pierre-Yves Daoust suspects a parasite.

“The first thing that crossed my mind is parasitic larvae,” said the professor at University of Prince Edward Island. “There are number of different parasites that can do that.

“Most of them should not be a concern for human consumption.”

But with only a photo to study, Daoust said it’s hard to determine what parasite got into Leblanc’s moose hearts.

It appears to be at the intermediate stage, Doaust said, and would need the intestines of a carnivore, such as a wolf or a coyote, to mature.

“Most of these parasites could not do this to a human,” he said. “We’re not its final host.”

“Having said that, it would not be advisable for anyone to eat these cysts. But in all those cases, the cyst would be destroyed by proper cooking of the meat.”

Both Dr. Jim Goltz, veterinarian and pathologist for the New Brunswick government, and Bob Bancroft, a wildlife expert, agreed with the diagnosis.

“The structures are likely tapeworm cysts, but I’d need a specimen to be sure,” Goltz wrote in an email Wednesday.

“There are several possibilities here — most are immature stages of three tapeworm species that also infect dogs and wolves,” Bancroft said, also by email.

“These immature stages can be found on the lungs, liver, spleen, heart and kidneys.

“Each cyst has lots of immature tapeworms. I wouldn’t eat that heart and one should be careful to keep entrails away from dogs.”

Extent of infection not known

Daoust said he couldn’t speculate about much else because he hasn’t received many samples from hunters.

“Again, if these are parasitic larvae, they are not uncommon. But I could not tell you if there are 100 moose killed, there is only one affected like this.”

Luckily for Leblanc, Daoust said, there’s hope yet.

“I would not recommend that the entire carcasses be condemned,” he said. “It may not have affected the animal whatsoever.”

Stephen Hawking Was Right to Worry About Our Impending Doom

Stephen Hawking
Photo: AP

Physicist Stephen Hawking died today at the age of 76. In the latter stages of his illustrious career, Hawking devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to issuing warnings of future threats—from the perils of climate change and nuclear war through to artificial superintelligence and alien invasions. And for this he was often ridiculed. But here’s the thing: Hawking was right—and it would be incumbent upon all of us to heed his advice.

When Hawking wasn’t talking about Euclidean quantum gravity, naked singularities, or radiation seeping from black holes, there’s a good chance the Cambridge Lucasian Professor of Mathematics was doing his best Chicken Little impersonation, telling a global audience that the sky above would soon give way, should we choose to keep ignoring it.

For Hawking, there was no shortage of ways in which the sky could fall. Early in his career he warned us about comets and asteroids, but by the mid-aughts he began to focus his attention on self-inflicted wounds. In 2006, at the age of 64 and with virtually nothing left to prove, Hawking posed the following open question online: “In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?” Over 25,000 people chimed in with their own opinions, with many asking Hawking for his own advice. “I don’t know the answer,” he replied. “That is why I asked the question.”

That same summer, and in another sign of his mood shift, Hawking told a news conference in Hong Kong that life on Earth “is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.” This time around, however, he volunteered an answer to the problem: colonize other planets or perish.

Hawking’s view of humanity had turned grim, and by 2010 he was warning of alien invasions, saying, “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.” In her 2012 book, Stephen Hawking: His Life and Work, author Kitty Ferguson wrote about the physicist’s view of computer viruses and why he thought they were a new form of life. “Maybe it says something about human nature, that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive,” said Hawking. “Talk about creating life in our own image.”

More recently, Hawking began to voice his concerns about artificial intelligence. In 2014, he famously said that AI was our “worst mistake in history,” and he signed an open letter warning of AI risks, alongside like-minded public figures including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, physicist Sir Martin Rees, and biologist George Church. “One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand,” he wrote in an Independent op-ed with computer scientist Stuart Russell and physicists Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek. “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.” A year later, he added his name to an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous killing machines.

By this point in his career, Hawking began to sound like a droning bell. His repeated calls for off-world colonization in the face of such risks as “climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth” began to sound monotonous, and people began to tune him out—Gizmodo included. Except for the tabloids, of course, who cheerily repeated his dire warningswithout pause.

Doom fatigue aside, Hawking’s death provides us with an opportunity to reflect on his warnings. As someone who has written extensively about the many ways humanity could end its tenure on Earth, I have very little to complain about when it comes to the late physicist’s views.

It sucks to hear, but he was right. We’re in big trouble. And we need to do something about it.

Last year, for example, Oxford’s Global Priorities Project listed asteroid impacts, global warming, artificial intelligence, and global pandemics among humanity’s most pressing near-term risks. With the shifting geopolitical climate, we have no choice but to worry—yet again—of nuclear war. Hawking’s view of malevolent aliens may have violated popular conceptions of friendly extraterrestrial visitors, but he was right to be terrified. At the same time, there’s no shortage of potential existential risks in our future, whether it be from a poorly programmed artificial superintelligence, a nanotechnology-powered apocalypse, or a retreat into a dystopian totalitarian dark age.

Of course, Hawking didn’t come up with these threats from thin air, nor was he the only one making such warnings. He just happened to be exceptionally vocal about it, and because of his extraordinary reach, he was able to communicate his message to a large global audience. That’s why he got branded as a Chicken Little, and why we became so inclined to associate these doom-and-gloom scenarios exclusively to him.

The best way to honor Hawking’s legacy, in my opinion, is to take inspiration from his admonitions and his persistency. He may have sounded misanthropic at times, but his warnings came from a good place. Despite the physical hardships he had to endure for so many years, Hawking never gave the impression that he gave up on his own life, and by virtue of his ceaseless warnings, he never gave up on humanity either.

Yes, the future looks scary—but as Hawking reiterated time and time again, the worst thing we can do when threats appear on the horizon is to plant our heads firmly in the ground.

Philippines warns against killing of migratory birds amid avian flu outbreak


MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Sunday warned citizens not to kill or poach migratory birds that usually fly in from China, the possible source of a virus that triggered the Southeast Asian nation’s first outbreak of avian flu, to avoid worsening the situation.

There has been no case of human transmission but the virus prompted a cull of 200,000 fowl last week after it was detected on a farm in the province of Pampanga, north of the capital Manila, and spread to five neighboring farms.

Migratory birds or smuggled ducks from China may have brought in the virus, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has said.

The bird migration season in the Philippines usually starts around September, with the birds returning to their breeding grounds the following March, Mundita Lim, director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), said in an advisory.

“The culling, poisoning or chasing of migratory birds is strongly discouraged as they have proven ineffective and counterproductive,” she added.

Sick or dead wild birds should immediately be reported to the Department of Agriculture to allow checks for the virus, Lim said, urging breeders in areas frequented by migratory birds to guard their flocks against contact with them.

Early tests of the virus in the avian flu outbreak ruled out the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, but Philippine officials have sought further testing by an Australian animal health laboratory that is part of a global network combating the disease.

The Philippines is monitoring the quality and prices of poultry products in its markets, but believes farm authorities have managed to isolate and contain the virus, the presidential palace said in a statement.

Roy Cimatu, the secretary of environment and natural resources, said his department would step up surveillance against efforts to smuggle wild birds by sea and air.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Bird flu pandemic worse than 2009 swine flu outbreak could be on its way to Britain


A bird flu pandemic could be heading Britain’s way, warn scientists (Photo: Reuters)

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Scientists fear a bird flu pandemic worse than the 2009 swine flu outbreak could be heading Britain’s way.

And the UK is making no preparations for a vaccine to prevent it.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Given the severity of the warnings, the Government ought to say what measures it is taking to improve preparedness to deal with an outbreak like this.”

More than 1,300 bird flu victims have been identified, mostly in China.

Of those, 476 have died, a rate of more than one in three.

There are also victims in Indonesia, Egypt and Vietnam, and two cases in Canada of people travelling from China.

Jon Ashworth wants the Government to outline what measures it is taking to improve preparedness(Photo: Getty)

The virus, H7N9, has so far only been caught by humans from birds or a close family member who is infected.

But scientists say that it is only two mutations away from widespread human-to-human transmission.

A warning in New Scientist magazine says: “If the virus evolves the ability to spread between humans easily, it will go pandemic and circle the world in weeks.”

Flu experts say if that happens it is likely to be more severe than the H1N1 swine flu pandemic that swept Britain eight years ago.

The virus, H7N9, has so far only been caught by humans from birds or a close family member who is infected

They fear it could rival the 1918 pandemic when a bird flu strain killed up to 100million people worldwide.

The 2009 swine flu outbreak in Britain struck 800,000 people and caused more than 280 deaths.

The US Centre for Disease Control said: “It is possible that this latest virus could gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people, triggering a global outbreak.”

A Public Health England (PHE) spokesman said, “The risk of the influenza A H7N9 strain to residents in the UK remains very low, and similarly for those travelling to China.

“However, we are monitoring and we advise precautions are taken to protect those travelling against possible infection.

“These precautions include avoiding visiting live animal markets and poultry farms and avoiding contact with animal waste or untreated bird feathers. Only eat thoroughly cooked poultry, egg or duck dishes and always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water. Do not touch dead or dying birds in China and do not bring poultry products back to the UK.”

The first case of a human contracting the H7N9 strain of avian influenza has been registered in China’s northern province of Shanxi, local media reported Wednesday.


BEIJING (Sputnik) — A 66-year-old woman from the city of Datong was diagnosed with the avian virus and has since been hospitalized, the Xinhua news agency said, adding that the patient remains in grave but stable condition. Those who were in contact with the woman did not reportedly show any symptoms of infection.The first case of a human contracting avian influenza virus was registered in China in March 2013. In January and February, the outbreaks of the H7N9 strain were recorded in a number of Chinese regions, while in March alone, a total of 47 died and 96 were infected from the disease, the news agency detailed, citing the national health and family planning commission.

According to the World Health organization (WHO), avian influenza H7N9 is a subtype of influenza viruses detected primarily in birds, but human cases have been recorded since 2013. The asymptomatic disease is particularly dangerous because it has the potential to make patients severely ill.

Bird Flu Pandemic Hasn’t Changed Atrocious Conditions at Poultry Farms


The government’s recent move to encourage bigger cages in order to prevent another avian influenza from spreading on a massive scale like the one which transpired last November is being met with a lukewarm reception and skepticism among critics over the lax nature of the newly introduced rules. (Image: Kobiz Media)

The government’s recent move to encourage bigger cages in order to prevent another avian influenza from spreading on a massive scale like the one which transpired last November is being met with a lukewarm reception and skepticism among critics over the lax nature of the newly introduced rules. (Image: Kobiz Media)

SEOUL, April 17 (Korea Bizwire) – Despite new government measures that require farmers to make use of larger cages, the horrific conditions that poultry live under at typical factory farms in South Korea are unlikely to change soon, which have been identified as one of the major factors behind the recent influenza Type A pandemic that causes illness to people.

The government’s recent move to encourage bigger cages in order to prevent another avian influenza from spreading on a massive scale like the one which transpired last November is being met with a lukewarm reception and skepticism among critics over the lax nature of the newly introduced rules.

Existing poultry farms will have 10 years to update their old cages in accordance with the new standards, but critics say the grace period is too long, and that simply making cages slightly bigger won’t get to the root of the problem.

According to current laws regarding poultry farming, chickens are being raised in a space smaller the size of an A4 sheet of paper (0.05 square meters or 0.5 square feet), which means 1 square meter per 20 chickens. When the new rules take place, poultry farms will be required to have their cages built at least 0.075 square meters in size.

The EU already banned (in 2003) the construction of any more of the so-called battery cages, a term that refers to small wire cages in which hens spend their entire lives with little to no space to move around. Since a total ban on battery cages took place in 2012, an increasing number of farmers have adopted free-range farming.

South Korean poultry farms however, have been bucking the trend and engaging in activities that border on animal cruelty, such as keeping the lights on during the night to maximize egg production, exploiting a physiological phenomenon in which a drastic environmental change suddenly increases the egg production of hens.

Despite opposition from animal rights groups, little has been done to secure the wellbeing of farm animals in South Korea.

A representative from the Korea Association for Animal Protection (KAAP), Lee Won-bok, was critical of the government’s move to tackle avian influenza, calling it a ‘makeshift plan’ that will bring little to no change.

“AI pandemics occur almost every year due to the poor living conditions of farm animals, not because of the size of cages,” Lee said.

Hyunsu Yim (hyunsu@koreabizwire.com)

Bird Flu Is a Big Deal. Of Course Trump Wants to Defund the Best Way to Contain It


The virus has now hit Georgia, the No. 1 poultry-producing state—and Trump plans to cut surveillance funds.

For the second time in less than three years, avian flu is moving through industrial-scale US chicken facilities. Republicans in power seem too fixated on budget-cutting to notice.

First, President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pushed a health care plan that would have slashed funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency that tracks farm flu outbreaks and works with the US Department of Agriculture and local authorities to “minimize any human health risk” they cause.

Given that avian flu is on the march again, one might think it prudent to keep that cash around, devoted to monitoring the 2017 outbreak.

That effort collapsed, but now Trump is taking a more direct whack at flu-tracking funding. A couple of Politico reporters got hold of a budget-cutting proposal the Trump team is circulating in Congress. The document lists $1 billion in suggested cuts to the US Department of Agriculture’s discretionary spending in 2017—which is separate from the “21 percent proposed reduction for USDA that the administration included in its 2018 budget outline released earlier this month,” Politico reports.

Among the cuts being sought for 2017, the Trump team seeks to extract funds from a USDA program funded by Congress in 2015 to address the flu problem that swept through the Midwest that year, triggering the euthanasia of 50 million birds and causing egg prices to spike. Congress had allocated $1 billion for it, of which $80 million is left. Given that avian flu is on the march again, one might think it prudent to keep that cash around, devoted to monitoring the 2017 outbreak. Trump’s budget people have other ideas—they want to take away $50 million of the $80 million left over. Politico quotes the document:

The response to the FY15 [fiscal-year 2015] outbreak is complete, and USDA should still have enough balances to respond to the two recent HPAI [high pathogenic avian influenza] outbreaks in TN [Tennessee] this year.

Of course, this year’s avian flu, albeit a less virulent strain, has broken out of Tennessee, swept into Alabama and Kentucky, and has now alighted in Georgia, the nation’s No. 1 chicken-producing state. It would be interesting to know what Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Trump’s still-pending pick to lead the USDA, thinks of that proposed money-saving measure.

While the CDC insists that the risk that people will come down with the current avian flu strain is “low,” it does work with the Department of Agriculture and state authorities on tracking outbreaks. That’s because health officials have been warningfor decades that massive livestock confinements make an ideal breeding ground for new virus strains, including potentially ones that can jump from bird to human, and then spread among humans. Meanwhile, a different strain of avian flu has swept across Japan, South Korea, and China. It has killed 140 people but has not proved capable of spreading from human to human.

Saudi Arabia temporarily bans poultry imports from Tennessee over bird flu

Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned imports of live birds, hatching eggs and chicks from Tennessee after a form of bird flu that is highly lethal for poultry was found in the U.S. state, the Saudi ministry of agriculture said on Sunday.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture reported this month that two commercial chicken flocks had been found to have been infected with H7N9 highly pathogenic flu.

In a statement carried by the Saudi state news agency SPA, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said the ban was issued in accordance with a warning issued by the World Organisation of Animal Health and would remain in place “until it is certain that they are free from the disease”.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture said on March 16 that a flock in Lincoln County was found to have been infected with H7N9, the same strain that was reported in another chicken flock less than two miles away on March 5.

The initial case was the country’s first infection of highly pathogenic bird flu at a commercial poultry operation in more than a year.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelatti; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Bird flu toll in Miyagi, Chiba kept down to [only?] 270,000 chickens



The chicken cull sparked by the nation’s latest bird flu outbreaks fell short of the originally planned goal of 300,000 Sunday as authorities in Miyagi and Chiba prefectures opted to settle for roughly 209,000 and 62,000 chickens, respectively.

The two prefectures north of Tokyo were spurred into action by outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu at local poultry farms.

Agricultural officials in Chiba finished their cull on Saturday.

The Miyagi Prefectural Government will bury the carcasses underground and disinfect the poultry houses, officials said. It initially planned to kill 220,000 chickens but later reduced it by about 11,000.

The two culls began Friday, with help from Self-Defense Forces personnel.

Since November, the H5 virus has devastated poultry farms in Niigata, Aomori and Miyazaki prefectures as well as Hokkaido.

According to the Miyagi Prefectural Government, a total of 96 chickens were found dead over a three-day period through Thursday at a poultry farm in Kurihara. Six tested positive for bird flu in a preliminary screening.

In Chiba, 118 chickens were found dead over the same three-day period at a farm in Asahi and 10 tested positive in a preliminary test.

Subsequent generic exams detected the highly virulent H5N6 strain of avian influenza in both cases.

Also:  220,000 More Birds Culled in Japan’s Northeast due to Bird Flu


TOKYO – Japanese authorities announced on Friday that some 220,000 more birds in the northeast of the country have been slaughtered due to an outbreak of bird flu that has reappeared since the end of 2016.

The latest outbreak was detected on a farm in Miyagi prefecture after hundreds of dead chickens were analyzed throughout the week and were subsequently found that they were infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5.

Regional authorities on Friday began slaughtering all the birds on the farm with help from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, a process that will continue until Sunday.

In addition, the transport of birds and eggs within a radius of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) around the three affected farms has been prohibited, state media NHK television said.

According to the NHK, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai said at a press conference that this is the first outbreak of bird flu detected on a farm in this prefecture.

The outbreak of the virus in this northeastern region follows outbreaks in the country’s southwest, in Miyazaki in January and in Saga in February.

The number of birds slaughtered in Japan has reached around 1.39 million so far since the bird flu was again detected in the country in November 2016 after the 2014 outbreak, prompting the Ministry of Environment to raise the alert to the highest level.