A Portland Press Herald blog on large animal veterinarians in Maine included a question-and-answer interview with University of Maine Cooperative Extension Veterinarian Anne Lichtenwalner, director of the UMaine Animal Health Laboratory and assistant professor of animal and veterinary sciences, about the dwindling numbers of large animal veterinarians in the state.
Channel 7 (WVII) interviewed University of Maine Cooperative Extension veterinarian Anne Lichtenwalner and recent UMaine veterinary sciences graduate and research assistant Darryl Ann Girardin for story broadcast in the 6 p.m. news on Nov. 9 about a two-year research project helping the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife determine how prevalent a possible new parasite, lungworm, is in moose in Maine. Girardin and Lichtenwalner began analyzing lungs from hunted moose in northern Maine last fall at the UMaine Animal Health Laboratory to genetically identify lungworms in moose. They are exploring the possibility that a lungworm normally found in deer and sometimes livestock can migrate to new host species, which in this case is moose.
Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756
It’s been a difficult year for much of the country in regards to mosquito-borne disease, but Maine seems to have done relatively well, according to the most recent CDC update. Most mosquito activity is over for the year. The Maine 2012 season passed with no human cases, and relatively little animal disease due to EEE and WNV — probably thanks to many factors, including vaccination of horses and mosquito control for humans, pets, and livestock. Planning for mosquito control for next year is a good idea, and keeping equine vaccinations current is a big part of lessening the impact of EEE and WNV in Maine.
For more information, see “2012 US Arboviral Activity Update” (listed under Weekly reports) at westnile.ca.gov.
A Bangor Daily News article on parasites threatening Maine’s moose population included comments from University of Maine Cooperative Extension veterinarian Anne Lichtenwalner and several UMaine students who have been researching the effects of moose lungworm on moose mortality. UMaine student Jana Drury, postdoctoral research Sarah Barker and recent UMaine graduate and research assistant Darryl Ann Girardin discussed their research using DNA analysis to determine whether certain lungworm species are new to moose or common. Lichtenwalner, who directs the UMaine Animal Health Laboratory, said it’s important to know if an animal is hosting a new type of parasite, which suggests parasites are adapting to a new food source.
As the fall weather approaches, most of us are spending as much time as possible outdoors. It’s important to continue your vigilance against mosquito bites, however, as EEE virus is present in the New England region at this time of year. If you are out at dawn or dusk, wear insect repellant and/or long sleeves and pants. Keep screens on your windows. Protect pets and horses from mosquitoes, as well, using either repellants or masks. Of course, your horses and mules should be boostered within the last 6 months for EEE; check with your vet to be sure vaccinations are up to date.
WCVB.com recently reported that three central Massachusetts communities have suspended evening sports activities and will close playgrounds from dusk until dawn after an Athol girl was diagnosed with Eastern equine encephalitis. Read more>>
For updated information from the EPA about mosquito control, please visit Mosquito Control by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM PhD, Director: University of Maine Animal Health Laboratory, Cooperative Extension and Department of Animal and Veterinary Science
Human cases of hantavirus respiratory syndrome are seen periodically, and have been diagnosed in Maine. It’s a good idea to review how to minimize any risk to humans due to this disease.
It simply boils down to keeping rodents out of your house, barn or camp. If you are going into a camp or other building (shed, garage, etc.) that may have rodents living in or around it, wear a mask. Open the door and let it air out for 30 minutes before you go in. Then, spray things down with a dilute bleach solution, followed by mopping or sponging all surfaces to remove the solution. Avoid breathing the dust: don’t sweep or vacuum! This is what can carry hantavirus into your respiratory system, which is associated with the dangerous form of hantavirus in humans. See the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Zoonotic – Hantavirus (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome)for details about cleaning areas where you think mice have been
If you think there are rodents in your home, you can use traps, bait, or other methods to reduce them (a highly motivated cat works very well, too!). Usually you will know — by a musty smell, the small dark pellet-like droppings, or characteristic gnaw-marks in food packaging/walls — that rodents are resident in your home or barn. You’ll almost never see them — if you do, the problem is likely greater than you would think.
Prevention is the best cure for rodent infestation. How? Seal up uncontrolled entry: patrol the premises, find gaps in foundations, baseboards, walls, cabinets etc. and use a rodent-proof (metal or concrete) method for patching. Many older homes are impossible to seal up. What then? Reduce the attraction: keep all food in glass or metal containers, or in the refrigerator/freezer. Use or clean out drawers and closets frequently enough to disturb any nesting rodents. Use a smell disincentive for rodents, such as mothballs, fragrant oils, dryer non-static sheets, etc What about the barn? A small population of rodents is normal on a farm. However, they should never have access to stored animal feeds. If you order in bulk, check your feed bins frequently for holes (which can lead to mold problems, not just rodents). If you purchase feed by the bag, store it in metal or thick plastic cans that seal tightly. Always close them carefully, and always clean up any spilled feed. Your livestock should eat the grain quickly; grain in feeders is also a powerful rodent attractant. Chicken feeders that can be hung from the ceiling are helpful: you may need to put a rodent deflector on them. There are even chicken-activated feeders that close when the chickens aren’t actively feeding . (see the “Rodent resistant chicken feeder” video on YouTube). Installing an automatic chicken coop door to a well-sealed coop may decrease the rodent problem, too.
Remove any clutter in the yard that might be home to rodents. Keep a well-mowed zone, or open gravel, of several yards around your home, barn or camp; rodents dislike travelling over open spaces.
In some cases, the only effective solution is a cat: but be sure the cat is vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and healthy. A population explosion of cats may solve your mouse problem, but will bring lots of other problems.
There are both private pest control services and also some public resources, such as your local Cooperative Extension office, the Maine Department of Agriculture or the USDA, who may be able to help you with stubborn rodent problems. They can assist you with the choice of solutions for your problem. Don’t forget that any effective rodenticide (rodent poison) also carries some risks: pet, wildlife or child exposure to unintended toxicity. These products must be used carefully and disposed of properly.
Should you be successful in trapping and in cleaning up any rodent debris: how do you dispose of the dead rodents or cleaning materials? First, wear gloves and a mask when handling any potentially infected materials (including dead rodents). Cleaning implements can be disinfected with dilute bleach. Bag up the dead rodents and contact your local health official about responsible disposal.
The risk of human hantavirus disease is new in Maine, but the other problems associated with wild rodents in Maine homes, farms and camps have been with us a long time.
See Maine Public Health: Blog of the Maine CDC, Maine’s Public Health Agency for news releases for Maine.
The NickerNews.net website has quoted University of Maine Cooperative Extension veterinarian Anne Lichtenwalner in a report on mosquito-borne West Nile Virus, which can be fatal to horses, human and other animals. The article links to an Extension question and answer interview with Lichtenwalner, director of the UMaine Animal Health Laboratory, and her video about precautions horse owners can take.
Channel 2 (WLBZ) interviewed University of Maine Cooperative Extension veterinarian Anne Lichtenwalner and UMaine Extension pest management specialist Jim Dill for a report about West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), which are spread by mosquitoes. Lichtenwalner, director of the UMaine Animal Health Laboratory, discussed ways to protect horses from EEE. Dill said EEE has been reported in Massachusetts and mosquitoes in New Hampshire have tested positive for WNV, and that Maine residents should reduce wet breeding grounds for mosquitoes as a precaution. The Kennebec Journal also interviewed Lichtenwalner for a report about the mosquito-borne diseases.
Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM, PhD, University of Maine Extension
Question: What are the risks of WNV to humans, horses and pets in Maine this year?
Answer: WNV is a disease that can be transmitted by some (but not all) species of mosquitoes here in the Northeast. Routine testing of mosquito “pools” has revealed WNV in Maine mosquitoes this summer. Summer weather always brings more mosquitoes, and thus more risk. It’s time to review the steps for preventing disease due to WNV.
Question: How can I find out where this disease is showing up?
Answer: If you would like to see an up-to-date review of where the risks are, go to the CDC site (www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm) and look at the maps in the middle of the page. You’ll get info on where there have been mosquitoes detected with the virus (this is important because they are the primary means of spreading WNV), but also where there have been human cases. You can find out how many total cases have been reported, versus the number of deaths.
Question: With more WNV around in general, what can I do to avoid getting it?
Answer: The best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes: reduce the amount of stagnant water in which they breed, have effective screens on windows, avoid being outdoors (especially standing still) at dawn and dusk, wear protective clothing and consider using mosquito repellants if you are outside.
Question: With more WNV around in general, what can I do to protect my animals?
Answer: The same steps, in general, will help protect animals: reduce the amount of stagnant water on your premises, have screened-in shelters or fly masks/sheets for your animals (especially if they are out during dawn and dusk) and consider using mosquito repellants if other methods don’t work or aren’t practical. An extra step is critical to protect horses: vaccinate. Vaccinations are available, and you should check with your vet about whether and when to vaccinate. Remember, any “first” vaccination needs a booster (repeat) at about a month following the first one; after that, every 6 to 12 months another booster may be advisable. Check with your vet about recommendations in your area.
Question: What about dogs and cats — don’t they get WNV, too?
Answer: Experimentally, it’s been shown that if cats eat WNV-infected mice, they can become infected: but they don’t show illness. As well, an experiment with both dogs and cats showed that inoculating them with WNV resulted in infection, but not signs of illness. Studies of large numbers of dogs and cats in China showed very few with antibodies to WNV, which also supported that our pets can be infected, but probably are resistant to getting sick due to WNV. While it’s a good idea to avoid infection for our pets, the biggest danger of WNV appears to be to humans, horses and birds.
Question: What about my chickens and pet birds?
Answer: The most sensitive birds to WNV seem to be wild birds of several species, including crows and jays. Chickens appear to be resistant, although WNV has been created experimentally in chickens, geese and turkeys. For pet birds (such as psittacine birds), screens are the best protection against mosquitoes, as many bird species are highly sensitive to bug repellants. If you have pet birds, it’s a good idea to consult your vet about avoiding WNV.
Pet owners may want to see if their pet food brand is affected by a recent recall of products due to salmonella contamination. In some states and in Canada, human cases of salmonellosis, traced to these foods, have been recently documented. If you suspect illness due to using any of the listed foods, please contact the Maine CDC or the Department of Agriculture.
The company website for updates on this situation is http://diamondpetrecall.com/ and recent updates can be found at www.cdc.gov/salmonella/dog-food-05-12/pet-owners-info.html.