11 August, 2010

Spotlight News of the Week

Extinction risk for bats due to White-nose Syndrome

Bats are critically important for insect control and pollination of many agriculturally important crops. White-nose Syndrome has been devastating the population of little brown bats, leading the Forest Service to consider closing 30,000 caves to spelunkers in an attempt to slow the spread of this poorly understood disease. In a worrying study published in the latest issue of Science, bat biologists analyzed data on the die-off and found “a 99 percent chance of regional extinction of the [little brown bat] within the next 16 years if mortality and spread continue unabated.” A colony of little brown bats can eat 42 pounds of insects in 4 months. Not only would their loss be devastating to farmers, human health may also be affected. As many communities face insecticide spraying to address West Nile virus and EEE in local mosquito populations, the loss of bats could mean a higher risk of these diseases in the future. If you would like to donate to ongoing research, please visit Bat Conservation International.

Additional New Highlights:

Measles in Brazil for the First Time in 10 Years

On August 6th, Brazilian news sources reported a case of measles in a 19 year old in Belém, Pará, Brazil. The last indigenous infection was in 2000; all cases since then had been acquired outside of Brazil. The Department of Health reports the case has been confirmed and that his two brothers may also be infected.

Leishmaniasis Kills in Southern Sudan

Since June, there have been 48 deaths and another 130 cases of Leismaniasis (known as “kala azar”) in Juba in Southern Sudan. Leishmaniasis is a skin and mucus membrane infection cause by the Leishmania parasite. People in Asia, Africa and the Middle East especially worry about contracting this disease. With proper medications the chance of being cured from the disease is high, but in these poverty-stricken areas, many people are unable to obtain the necessary medications.

Hantavirus in Canada and Germany
Saskatchewan reported its first case of Hantavirus since 2008. Hantavirus is carried by rodents, causes flu-like symptoms, and progresses to fatal lung infection in roughly one third of cases. Germany has seen a dramatic increase in Hantavirus infections this year, with 736 cases this year in Baden-Württemberg (over 100 times the number of cases last year).

Cholera Outbreak in the Aftermath of Pakistan Flooding
Pakistan is currently experiencing the worst flooding in 80 years. The latest sources estimate over 14 million people affected and 250,000 homes destroyed. The official death toll is up to 1,700 although estimates as high as 3,000 have been given. Unsanitary conditions and the absence of food and clean drinking water have caused the rampant spread of waterborne illnesses such as dysentery and cholera. It is estimated that already 100,000 people show symptoms of gastroenteritis while cholera has been confirmed in many regions, although official case counts have not been released. Acute respiratory illnesses are also on the rise and an increasing number of children are suffering from skin diseases and eye infections. Countries such as the US, China and the EU have already pledged millions of dollars in aid, but help in the form of money, food and medicine cannot come fast enough.

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