Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bird Flu Mutating!

I just got a disturbing e-mail from Dr. Kapustin from "". It looks like Nature is way out in front as far as published information about the H5N1 virus. This latest publication states that the current virus flash point in Turkey shows two new mutations. The first is a switch in an amino acid change at the 223 position on the hemaglutination (H) protein. This increases it's affinity for binding to human cells and decreases it's affinity for bird cells. The second is another switch ,like the 223-haemoagglutinin mutation, it signals adaptation to humans, says Alan Hay, director of a WHO influenza laboratory at the NIMR. "There is this glutamic acid–lysine flip," he explains. "Glutamic acid is associated with flu-virus replication in birds, and lycine is in primates."These changes put us on the track to the 10 genetic changes associated with the 1918 pandemic. Dr. Tier spoke of a recent meeting where it was speculated that if we reach that point with this virus we can expect 300 million dead......thats 300,000,000 dead. The infection in Turkey( yes, that's technically Europe) seems to include alot of family clusters that could indicate human to human transmission , however, there is only a 20% mortality in this outbreak and as of now no data as to why it is behaving differently here. In another study from the Erasmus medical center in Rotterdam in the Netherlands found that the virus wreaks havoc in the brain, liver, kidney, heart and numerous other tissues, they find, killing cells and triggering inflammation. By contrast, the flu viruses that strike people in winter largely limit their damage to the nose and lungs. This discovery backs up earlier studies in mice and ferrets, and may help to explain why the bird flu kills so many of the humans it infects. "It's promiscuous," says veterinary pathologist Corrie Brown, who studies infectious diseases at the University of Georgia, Athens. "It doesn't care what type of cell it invades." It was also shown that the virus can be shed in urine and feces
from infected cats, a species previously thought to be immune.
Researchers think that people mostly catch the disease by breathing in virus from contaminated bird droppings, but it has not been clear that it could spread between mammals by a faecal-oral route too. We need to keep a close eye on this one , while we may not see it this year or at all for that matter, it is still a frightening virus with the potential for world wide devastation.

Gorilla's in our midst

I was doing some work at the jacksonville Zoo this week with Dr. Kapustin and Dr Tier and did an echocardiogram on a Gorilla. Everytime I do one of these I am amazed at the massive size of these primates. Fortuneately for me he was anesthetized for his physical. They do a great job at the Zoo,
doing this on almost every animal each year, getting blood work, x-rays and dental care done.
According to Dr. Tier, Gorilla's suffer from many of the same ailments that we do with a very high incidence of Hypertension and Aortic annurism. This Gorilla was "Lash" a 30+ male, with REALLY BIG hands and teeth. As I did the Echo a dedicated team worked over lash drawing blood , monitoring vital signs and examining for any potential problems. His Echo was fairly normal and no significant problems were seen. Lash was a good sport and allowed himself to pose for a quick photo. Until next year.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Microchip Identification

I worked this weekend with North Florida Horse Rescue at their microchip clinic. The hope is to have as many horses "chipped" as possible before the start of the Hurricane season starts. Alot has been learned from the disasters of Hurricanes Andrew and katrina and how we can better prepare.
After Andrew went through south Florida hundreds of horses were displaced, abandoned or found dead. Several Veterinarians I know that worked in the aftermath told me of coming across drainage ditches with dozens of dead horses in them. At that point all identifying marks, brands and halter tags are gone, and they all looked the same.....bloated, brown and mud covered. Without a way of permanantly identifying them they were simply lost. In the state of Lousiana they are required to use permanant identification and 90% use microchips. Due to this fact, the overwhelming majority of horses lost during hurricane Katrina were identified. In the past there was no universal reader for different microchips, but now there is. We are using AVID, the market standard in our practice and at the NFHR clinic. This is a simple proceedure that involves injecting a small ( pencil lead size) chip under the skin into the nuchal ligament midway down the neck. It can then be read with a hand held scanner and it lasts for the life of the horse. In the event your horse is stollen, the horse slaughter houses in the US are required to scan each horse before proceeding and notify the AVID database. After a natural disaster, AVID works with rescue groups and VMAT (Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams) to provide scanners so that all of the horses rescued are identified and the owners notified. I would encourage all of you to look into having your horse chipped this year, the time is right and as we are moving into a time where Hurricanes will be more common, you dont want to get caught not knowing what happened to your horse.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Snake Bites

We normally see several snake bites each year, however not in the winter but I saw one this week. There are plenty of snakes here in North Florida and with the rain and warm weather we have had
we saw a snake bite this week. I thought it would be prudent to go over the signs you could see and some complications associated with them. Usually the bite wound is on the nose or face since they are frequently bitten while grazing. You will find localized swelling and a bloody drainage from the bite wounds and sometimes the nostrils. The good news is that not all snake bites envenomate,
(about 25% of Rattlesnake bites don't envenomate) but even if they don't, there is frequently a severe infection since their mouths contain Pseudomonas, Klebsiella and E.Coli. The toxins in snake venom are very complex and cause either hemolysis and coagulopathies or neurologic damage. There is pain and difficulty drinking and swallowing as the swelling progresses and if unchecked the swelling can restrict the airway. If you suspect a snake bite you should contact your Veterinarian so they can institute treatment. Do not try to cut and suction the venom as this doesnt work and may actually speed up absorption. Do not use a tourniquet.....since it is usually a bite above the neck....well, I hope this is self evident.
The unusual complication we experienced this week was the development of colic 48 hours later. After treating the horse with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics the swelling was receding but signs of abdominal pain developed. In this case a coagulopathy had occured and a clot/thrombus had formed in one of the blood vessels supplying the small intestine causing the bowel to die. This was found during exploratory surgery.
While you shouldn't have to deal with snake bites until the spring it is always good to be aware if your horse is in an area where snakes could be....pretty much anywhere in Florida.