Monkeys ‘Harbour Malaria Threat’

By James Gallagher, BBC

Scientists are warning that a species of malaria could switch from targeting monkeys to humans.

Macaques in south east Asia are a vast source of Plasmodium knowlesi which can spread to people, they write in PLoS Pathogens.

They believe that growing human populations and increased deforestation in the region could lead to the parasite switching host.

But those changes could also reduce the spread of the disease.

Around one million people die each year as a result of malaria.

It is caused by parasites and is spread by mosquitoes when they drink blood.

Read more here.

Vet Tax Axed

By Linda Rehkopf, Northeast Cobb Patch

Northeast Cobb pet owners can breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks to the determination of Georgia’s pet owners and veterinarians, the proposed tax on veterinary services has been deleted from pending legislation.

The 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians (otherwise known as that bipartisan committee determined to tax every service in the state) has deleted the “vet tax” from a revised bill. The tax would have driven up veterinary costs between seven and eight percent. Veterinarians would be the only health professionals targeted for taxation in Georgia; doctors and other health professionals’ services are exempt.

Since animal health and human health are intertwined, a vet tax could cause owners to neglect routine care for their companion animals. That, in turn, increases the number of zoonotic diseases passed between pets and human.

Read more here.

Study On Voluntary BSE Testing

A study just released offers information on the costs and benefits of voluntary BSE testing of Canadian cattle.

The study, funded by the Alberta Prion Research Institute, PrioNet Canada, and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, is intended to encourage discussion within the cattle industry.

The study analysed whether the costs for the beef industry to perform client-driven optional BSE testing could be recaptured through market premiums.

It concludes there is potential value in pursuing voluntary BSE testing, with qualifications. On the flip side, the study indicates a range of considerations arise in terms of potential adverse market impacts with voluntary BSE testing and would need to be appropriately addressed.

Read more here.

Seattle Should Not Set Bad Precedent in Pet Case

By John W. Schedler, The Seattle Times

Seattle taxpayers are being asked to pay $60,000 to the owner of a dog that was accidentally electrocuted when he stepped on a metal plate connected to one of the city’s streetlights. As an animal lover, I have enormous sympathy for the dog’s owner. But as a taxpayer and lawyer who sees these types of lawsuits regularly, I ask, “What are the consequences of paying such high awards?”

As in many lawsuits over pets, the owner of the dog here is suing mostly for her pain and suffering stemming from the loss of her pet’s companionship. She purchased her dog, which was 6 years old at the time of the accident, for $200.

The law in Washington and virtually every other common-law state is clear on damages that are allowed and are not allowed in animal cases. Owners of animals improperly injured or killed can be fully compensated for their out-of-pocket costs, including reasonable veterinary bills and certain other expenses related to the accident. In addition, when the harm is done to the animal maliciously, an owner may collect other types of damages.

Read more here.

Spending on Pets Up During Lean Economic Times: POLL


Americans may be clipping money-saving coupons and delaying buying a new home, but when it comes to their pets they’re spending more than ever, according to a new survey.

Between trips to the vet, specialty foods, treats and toys, pet insurance and even parties, Americans have no compunction about opening up their wallets to keep Rex, Rover or even the house lizard healthy and happy.

Flying in the face of economic woes, between two and five percent of pet owners said they spent more on their pets last year, according to the poll by the non-profit American Pet Products Association (APPA).

Read more here.

Simple Injection Could Cure Cat Allergies

By Martin Beckford, Telegraph

Researchers are developing a vaccine that provides long-term protection against the itching, sneezing and watering eyes that cats cause in up to one in 10 people.

Early trials suggest the product is safe, effective and lasts longer than current treatments, which can also have serious side-effects.

If further tests are successful, the scientists behind the vaccine hope they will be able to develop similar products for the millions who suffer hay fever and other allergies, although experts warn this will be far more difficult to achieve.

Read more here.

Chinese Ducks Felled by New Virus

By Mara Hvistenahl, Science

Peking duck, salted duck eggs, duck soup: China is famous for its duck delicacies, and duck farms dot the country’s agricultural belt. So last spring, when Chinese farmers noticed their prized birds were producing fewer eggs than usual, they began to worry. Egg production plummeted by as much as 90% in some flocks. Ducks were waddling about awkwardly, their coordination off kilter, and eating less than usual. Some died within days.

By the end of the year, an estimated 4.4 million ducks in Fujian, Shandong, and Zhejiang provinces, the swath of eastern China where duck farming is common, had caught the mysterious illness. And the outbreak reached at least six other provinces, along with rural areas outlying Beijing.

Enter microbiologist George Gao and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. By analyzing the affected animals, the scientists isolated an aggressive new flavivirus, a class of viruses that includes yellow and dengue fevers—the first flavivirus ever identified in ducks.

Read more here.

Human Virus Blamed in Gorilla Deaths


A human virus that causes respiratory disease has been linked to the death of wild mountain gorillas, U.S. and African researchers say.

Researchers say the finding confirms that serious diseases can pass from people to these endangered animals, a release from the University of California, Davis reported Monday.

“Because there are fewer than 800 living mountain gorillas, each individual is critically important to the survival of their species,” Mike Cranfield of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project and a UC Davis wildlife veterinarian, said. “But mountain gorillas are surrounded by people, and this discovery makes it clear that living in protected national parks is not a barrier to human diseases.”

Read more here.

Stabenow Announces First Senate Ag Farm Bill Hearing


With a definite Michigan angle, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced Friday that she will hold the Committee’s first Farm Bill field hearing April 9. Billed as “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,” the hearing will be at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

The hearing will focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill which expires in 2012, “examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan.” Witnesses haven’t been named yet. Given the timing, one issue is certain to be which parts of the Farm Bill will be subjected to budget cuts – and which parts will the committee try to protect from cuts.

Read more here.

Animals and Humans Share Some of the Same Diseases

By Dr. Claire Panosian Dunavan, Contra Costa Times

For the past several years, one of my longtime doctor pals has been caring for two sets of patients: humans and animals.

It all started when Barbara Natterson Horowitz, a heart specialist at UCLA Medical Center, was asked to perform echocardiograms on primates at the L.A. Zoo. She almost gasped in wonder the first few times she viewed images of oh-so-familiar structures like atria, ventricles, and valves in apes and chimps.

Before long, Natterson Horowitz realized the benefits – both in clinical care and research – to be gained from a closer study of animal heart disease as well as from closer ties between MDs and veterinarians.

Read more here.