Tag Archives | rabies

Die-Off of India’s Vulture Population Creates Crisis for Zoroastrian Sky Burials

Pic: Cornelius Brown (PD)

Pic: Cornelius Brown (PD)

India has always been a land with a robust vulture population, owing to its 500 million cattle population (almost half of the world’s 1.3 billion) and the taboo associated with eating beef (80% of the country is Hindu).  However this situation has drastically changed in just a generation.

From 1992 to 2007, the Indian population of some 400 million vultures of 9 species has dropped 99.9% due to the widespread use of a drug used to treat inflammatory disorders and pain in cattle called diclofenac.  The indigenous White-rumped Vulture alone, with a population of some 80 million, was described in 1985 as “possibly the most abundant large bird of prey in the world.”  Today the White-rumped Vulture is listed as Critically Endangered.  Tragically, a vulture that eats the flesh of a cow to whom diclofenac was recently administered quickly perishes from acute kidney failure.

This vulture population collapse has led to severe problems in India from undisposed cattle corpses.  Whereas previously a bull could be cleaned in as little as 20 minutes by a pack of vultures, now the carcass putrifies and may cause water contamination from runoff.  Moreover, the open niche has led to a sharp rise in the numbers of roaming wild dogs.  Whereas vultures are an ecological dead-end for pestilence owing to their super-acidic digestive system, dogs and rats are much more liable to spread disease.  Anthrax, plague, and the most fatal disease known to man: rabies, have seen a marked rise since the beginning of the vulture crisis.  Today in India, 30,000 people die from rabies each year, more than half the world’s total.… Read the rest

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Radiolab Episode on Rabies and the Milwaukee Protocol

220px-WerwolfIf you’ve got about half an hour to spare, then I recommend you check out Radiolab this week. It’s all about the young woman who survived rabies via the controversial “Milwaukee Protocol”: Treatment via induced medical coma. The episode features interviews with the family, doctor and patient, who survived but is still recovering years later.

Radiolab: “Rodney versus Death”

More from Radiolab

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Rabid Beaver Mauls Virginia Woman

Picture: Pearson Scott Foresman (PD)

Via the Washington Post:

An 83 year-old Falls Church, VA woman is recovering from grueling injuries resulting from a rabid beaver attack. The creature chewed chunks out of her leg and nearly bit off one of her thumbs.

The creature knocked Lillian Peterson off her feet as she was climbing out of Lake Barcroft after a swim. The 83-year-old woman twisted around to see what attacked her and noticed one thing: large, orange teeth.

A 35-pound, 24-inch rabid beaver had bitten her on the back of the leg and would not let go, sparking an ordeal that lasted more than 20 minutes Tuesday evening. The Falls Church woman and a friend battled the animal with canoe paddles, a stick and bare hands as it came at them again and again. Peterson was seriously injured.

Read on, Eager Beaver.

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Rabies Antibodies Detected Among Some Peruvians

Via NPR:

Left untreated, infection with rabies virus almost always results in a painful death. There has been some limited success with experimental treatment regimens (notably the Milwaukee Protocol), but these are exceptions to the rule: Once the symptoms begin to manifest, the only options left for treatment are palliative in nature. Recently, though, scientists discovered a small group of Peruvians who carry rabies antibodies. They’re not sure why they do, but one theory is that repeated exposure to the virus through the bites of vampire bats may have helped them gradually develop immunity. NPR has the story:

In remote regions of the Amazon jungle, small communities of people live near bat roosts, and rabies infections are relatively common among them. At least five outbreaks killed 19 people in the Peruvian Amazon in 2009.

So a team from the CDC, lead by disease ecologist Amy Gilbert, went to two villages near these outbreaks looking for signs of rabies exposure in healthy people.

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Warmer Weather May Lead to Uptick in Rabies Cases

Wired.com is calling it the “summer of hate”: An increase in rabies cases may (or may not) be linked to the heatwave enveloping much of the nation:

…health officials also point to 2012’s particularly mild winter. Higher-than-average temperatures likely led common rabies vectors like raccoons and skunks, normally dormant during the cold months, to become more active — which would thereby increase the opportunity for contact between infected and uninfected animals, both within and among species.

Double-check your zombie apocalypse survival kit and read more at wired.com

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