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Fri, 23 Feb 2018
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Plagues

Alarm Clock

Montana, US: Efforts Fail to Halt Pneumonia Outbreak in Bighorn Sheep

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© Frantisek Staud
Helena - Wildlife officials will let a pneumonia outbreak run its course through a herd of bighorn sheep west of Anaconda after killing dozens of sick animals failed to keep the disease in check.

There are no known vaccines to prevent pneumonia in bighorn sheep, which is usually fatal for the animals, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said Tuesday. Instead, wildlife officials kill sick sheep to prevent other animals from being exposed.

The agency has killed 44 bighorn sheep in the herd of about 300 animals west of Anaconda since confirming the pneumonia outbreak in August. But FWP officials say the outbreak has now spread beyond management control.

The whole population appears to be exposed and there is nothing to gain by killing more sheep, FWP Regional Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson said in a statement. Instead, the focus is now on trying to keep alive every animal that has a chance of surviving the outbreak.

Cloud Lightning

Cholera-Hit Haiti Braces for Looming Storm

Haiti
© AFP
Haitian refugees await word of Caribbean storm Tomas at a tent city in Port-au-Prince
Haiti reeled from a spike in cholera deaths as authorities planned mass evacuations from squalid tent cities ahead of a major storm set to lash the Americas' poorest nation beginning Thursday.

Tropical Storm Tomas was barreling toward Haiti, threatening a direct hit early Friday as a hurricane bringing "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over mountainous terrain," according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

A hurricane warning was issued, which means hurricane conditions are expected in the affected area within 24 to 36 hours, while tropical storm-force winds and rain were expected to buffet the Caribbean nation from late Thursday.

"These conditions make outside preparations difficult or dangerous, and preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the Miami-based center warned.

Attention

US: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Ravaged by Disease

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© Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bighorn sheep are pictured in Montana in this photograph taken on February 27, 2006 and obtained on October 2, 2010.
Across the northern Rocky Mountains, bighorn sheep are dying by the hundreds from pneumonia and alarmed wildlife officials are hunting and killing the majestic animals to halt the spread of the disease.

Since winter, nine disease outbreaks across five states in the West have claimed nearly 1,000 bighorns, prized as a game animal for the prominent curled horns of the adult males, or rams.

Scientists recently confirmed what they long suspected -- the cause of the plague is contact between the wild bighorns and domestic sheep flocks.

Putting the blame on domestic sheep has heightened a furious debate between advocates of the wild bighorns and sheep ranchers -- one skirmish in a bigger war between proponents of economic interests and those seeking protection of remaining wild areas and species in America's West.

Binoculars

Australia Faces Worst Plague of Locusts in 75 Years

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© Alamy
It's a bug's life: an Australian plague locust
Ideal breeding conditions for grasshoppers are expected to cost farmers billions

Australia's Darling river is running with water again after a drought in the middle of the decade reduced it to a trickle. But the rains feeding the continent's fourth-longest river are not the undiluted good news you might expect. For the cloudbursts also create ideal conditions for an unwelcome pest - the Australian plague locust.

The warm, wet weather that prevailed last summer meant that three generations of locusts were born, each one up to 150 times larger than the previous generation. After over-wintering beneath the ground, the first generation of 2010 is already hatching. And following the wettest August in seven years, the climate is again perfect. The juveniles will spend 20 to 25 days eating and growing, shedding their exoskeletons five times before emerging as adults, when population pressure will force them to swarm.

It is impossible to say how many billions of bugs will take wing, but many experts fear this year's infestation could be the worst since records began - 75 years ago. All that one locust expert, Greg Sword, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, would say was: "South Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are all going to get hammered."

Binoculars

Australia: Locust Bands Found in Northwest New South Wales

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© The Daily Telegraph
Surveillance aircraft have captured images of "supersized" bands of locusts in northwestern NSW that are more than three kilometres in length.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan has released the footage of the locusts near Walgett, taken during the first aerial surveillance mission of the plague season.

Mr Whan said there were now 102 confirmed locust reports across NSW, with aircraft on Wednesday detecting the insects in 16 locations near Walgett.

"What we've seen from the footage is supersized bands of locusts, more than three kilometres long, eating fodder and crops in northern NSW," Mr Whan told reporters at NSW Parliament on Thursday.

"This has confirmed our prediction that the northwest will be the first front in the battle against the locust plague.

Attention

Canada: Blight wiping out Alberta's tomatoes

alberta tomatoes
© Edmonton Journal
A fast-spreading fungus that normally infects potatoes is wiping out tomato plants across Alberta this season, says a plant-disease expert
A fast-spreading fungus that normally infects potatoes is wiping out tomato plants across Alberta this season, says a plant-disease expert.

The airborne disease called late blight of potato -- the same organism that led to the Irish potato famine -- is rare in Alberta, said forensic plant pathologist Ieuan Evans. However, a "giant outbreak" of the potato disease is attacking tomato plants this season and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, Evans said Sunday.

"We've never had this strain in Alberta before -- it's a tomato strain of late blight and it's extremely virulent in tomatoes," he said. "On the prairies, the last time we had an outbreak of late blight of any consequence was 1993, when it went right through Edmonton, but that was a potato strain."

Gardener Katherine Shute spent Sunday afternoon clearing out the withered remains of her diseased fruit. She spent the summer caring for 36 tomato plants in the large garden behind her Riverdale home and they have all rotted.

"It's so heartbreaking," she said. "I always grow a lot of tomatoes. I either make spaghetti sauce, salsa or tomato sauce and freeze them or can them so they last me well into spring, and it's just really discouraging."

Shute first spotted brown blotches on her tomatoes in July. She thought the spots were caused by hail until a friend warned her about late blight and neighbours told her the disease is attacking Edmonton gardens this year.

Ambulance

Iran declares health alert on Pakistan border

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© Unknown
Iranian officials have announced the country is to set a medical state of emergency on its borders with Pakistan, launching a vaccination and health check on immigrants.

Head of the Iranian Health Ministry's Center for Disease Control, Mohammad-Mehdi Gouya, told ISNA that it has been three weeks since the Iranian Health Ministry issued a health alert on its borders with Pakistan.

Last week, the United Nations confirmed the first death from cholera following the destructive floods in Pakistan that have devastated millions in the South Asian country.

"All travelers crossing the Iran-Pakistan border will receive a medical exam, especially a colon exam," Gouya said. "All children entering Iran from the Pakistani border will also receive a polio vaccine."

Gouya further stressed that cholera is certainly a concern and that is why Iran is stepping up efforts to prevent the spread of any contagious disease.

Bizarro Earth

More than 800 dead in Pakistani floods

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© AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
A woman sits outside her house flooded by heavy monsoon rains in Peshawar, Pakistan on Friday, July 30, 2010. Boats and helicopters struggled to reach hundreds of thousands of villagers cut off by floods in northwest Pakistan on Friday as the government said it was the deadliest such disaster to hit the region since 1929.
Flooding in Pakistan has killed more than 800 people in a week, a government official said Saturday as rescuers struggled to reach marooned victims and some evacuees showed signs of fever, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases.

The flooding caused by record-breaking rainfalls caused massive destruction in the past week, especially in the northwest province, where officials said it was the worst deluge since 1929. The U.N. estimated Saturday that some 1 million people nationwide were affected by the disaster, though it didn't specify exactly what that meant.

The information minister for the northwest province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said reports coming in from various districts across the northwest showed that more than 800 people had died due to the flooding. Many people remain missing.

Floodwaters were receding in the northwest, officials said, but fresh rains were expected to lash other parts of the country in the coming days.

Arrow Down

Mysterious Plague Killing Off Bats, Bugs Get Free Rein

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© Marvin Moriarty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
This little brown bat is seen hibernating in Greeley Mine, Vermont with the white fungus visible on its muzzle, wings, and ears.
Experts Don't Know How To Stop Spread of Deadly Fungus

A spreading plague has killed more than a million bats across the eastern U.S., and wildlife experts have no clue how to stop it.

As it rolls across the country and into Canada, the mysterious fungus threatens to disrupt the ecological balance, which could result in the spread of bugs that destroy crops and force swatting barbequers to flee indoors.

Called White-Nose Syndrome because of the white substance found on the noses of bats, it causes bats to move around and burn calories during the winter months when they should be hibernating and reserving energy. Scientists are not exactly sure why the fungus affects bats, where it came from originally, or how to stop its spread. One thing is for sure -- bat populations are being decimated by the fungus. Among some bat species, the mortality rate is 99 percent.

"There might be regional extinctions of particular bat species," said Noelle Rayman, assistant national White-Nose Syndrome coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told ABCNews.com.

Sherlock

Zambia: Investigation into mysterious disease launched

The Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Zambia have launched an investigation into the mysterious disease suspected to have broken out in Zambia.

The unknown disease, which is characterized by fever, coughs and bleeding from any part of the body, is reported to have so far claimed three lives.