Archive for September 19, 2009

When in Doubt, Best Stay Out

It’s  that time of year again.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued a news release yesterday warning pet owners of toxic blue-green algae blooms in lakes and ponds.

A dog died during the weekend after swimming in Fox Lake in Martin County, apparently as a result of exposure to toxic blue-green algae. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the dog’s owner said the dog swam in the lake on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13, and was dead within hours.

Blue-green algae “blooms,” like those on Fox Lake and some other lakes around the state, can produce toxins. These toxins can be deadly to dogs or other animals if ingested, particularly when they clean themselves after contact with the water.

Blue-green blooms can occur throughout the summer, but the recent warm weather and lack of rain create ideal conditions for them. The MPCA has confirmed other blue-green blooms this summer but this was the season’s first apparent animal death attributed to them.

Algae are a vital natural part of the aquatic environment and most of them are harmless; but sometimes water conditions (typically in mid- to late-summer when warm, still, nutrient-rich water is common)  favor blooms of algae species that can be harmful to mammals.  Some (not all) blue-green algae produce toxins. 

Because toxic conditions can arise quickly in algal blooms and because laboratory analysis is the only way to determine when a bloom is harmful – all blue-green algae blooms should be considered potentially dangerous.

Blooms are less toxic to people, who typically just develop skin irritation or upper respiratory problems when they’ve been exposed to harmful algal blooms.  But dogs and other animals can die very quickly after ingesting water containing the toxins.  If you suspect your pet has ingested water containing blue-green algae you must get him to a vet immediately.

MPCA offers this advice on identifying blue-green algae blooms:

Research has identified the conditions listed below that tend to occur along with a harmful algal bloom. If you observe these conditions on your lake or pond, it is best to avoid contact with the water and keep pets and children out of the water until the bloom dissipates. 

  • Very low transparency, Secchi often 1.5 foot or less;
  • Very high chlorophyll-a concentrations, generally greater than 30-50 ppb; and
  • Very high pH, generally 9.0 or greater.

For those of you who don’t have a background in hydrology or geochemistry, the page includes several helpful photographs of blue-green algae blooms as well as photographs of harmless species that are often confused with them.  Click photo for link:

AlgalBloom

Have a pet-related business?  MPCA also offers this free pdf format poster on the dangers of blue-green algae.  I’m getting one printed up in large format for the training room.

September 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm 1 comment

One Time Rabies Vaccine Coming?

Rabies is a terrible disease.  It doesn’t just affect wildlife and unvaccinated pets – rabies kills people too.  Worldwide the disease kills more than 55,000 people a year and half of these children.  Most of these victims live in third world countries where vaccination and treatment are often unavailable – or unaffordable.

But those deplorable statistics may soon be a thing of the past.  ScienceDaily Reports:

A person, usually a child, dies of rabies every 20 minutes. However, only one inoculation may be all it takes for rabies vaccination, according to new research published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases by researchers at the Jefferson Vaccine Center.

[…]

The immune response induced with this process is so substantial that only one inoculation may be sufficient enough, according to Dr. McGettigan. In addition, the vaccine appears to be efficient in both pre-exposure and post-exposure settings.

Currently, the World Health Organization standard for rabies infection is post-exposure prophylaxis. The complex regimen in the United States requires six different shots over 28 days: five of the rabies vaccine and one of rabies immunoglobulin.

The current standard vaccine is made from inactivated rabies virus, whereas the experimental vaccine is made from a live rabies virus. The virus is modified by removing the M gene, thus inhibiting its spread within the vaccine recipient.

An inactivated vaccine contains whole virus particles that have been treated so that they can’t infect host cells but are still recognized by the antibodies, B cells and T cells of the immune system.  Inactivation is typically accomplished with solvents, detergents, pasteurization, ultraviolet light or acids.  The new vaccine has been inactivated by genetically modifying the m gene, which is vital in building and budding off progeny viruses.

Developing countries do not have the resources to vaccinate people six times after exposure, so many of these 10 million do not receive the full regimen,” Dr. McGettigan said. “Therefore, simpler and less expensive vaccine regimens are needed. The alternative may also be to treat people pre-exposure, as they are with many of the current vaccines used. Although our vaccine was tested primarily to be a post-exposure vaccine, the data we collected show it would be effective as a pre-exposure vaccine as well.”

If it proves to be effective, this new vaccine could save human and animal lives and lead to more effective, less-expensive and less invasive vaccine regimens for pets.  And it might lead to developing one shot vaccines for many more of the diseases affecting pets and people.  This would be a very very good thing.

September 19, 2009 at 3:05 am 3 comments


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