Channel 7 Features Moose Lungworm Research

November 15th, 2012 8:29 AM

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

EEE and WNV updates: On the Positive Side

October 10th, 2012 10:45 AM

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.

UMaine Veterinarian Comments in Story on Parasites and Moose Mortality

October 1st, 2012 12:43 PM

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.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) a Late Summer Risk

September 13th, 2012 8:26 AM

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.

Hantavirus in Maine 2012: Reducing the Risk

September 4th, 2012 2:12 PM

Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM PhD, Director: University of Maine Animal Health Laboratory, Cooperative Extension and Department of Animal and Veterinary Science

mouse

Photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

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.

barn surrounded by unmowed grass

Tall weeds and thick vegetation provide cover and habitat for rodents. Photo by Anne Lichtenwalner.

barn with well-kept yard

A well-mowed zone, or open gravel area, of several yards around your home and barn can help discourage rodents. Photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDA.

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.

Lichtenwalner West Nile Virus Advice Posted

August 24th, 2012 3:18 PM

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.

Lichtenwalner, Dill in Mosquito-Borne Disease News Reports

August 17th, 2012 1:47 PM

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.

West Nile Virus (WNV) in Maine 2012: Frequently Asked Questions

August 17th, 2012 11:10 AM

Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM, PhD, University of Maine Extension

Question: What are the risks of WNV to humans, horses and pets in Maine this year?

grazing horsesAnswer: 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.

Salmonella found in pet food: human infections possible

May 16th, 2012 10:57 AM

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.

Student Success Stories – Darryl Ann Girardin

May 3rd, 2012 9:57 AM

Darryle Ann GirardinFor as long as she can remember, Darryl Ann Girardin of Presque Isle has been passionate about animals, especially large ones. And since the eighth grade, when she researched the best pre-vet schools in the country, she’s known she was going to study at the University of Maine.

Ironically, she also grew up without any household pets and, before she came to UMaine, had no experience with large animals.

“The first thing I did was volunteer at Witter (UMaine’s teaching and research farm) and work in the calf pens,” she says. “The farm is a mile down the road with a 40-cow dairy herd and 12 standardbreds. I enjoyed getting the hands-on experience. There aren’t that many (universities) where you can do that.”

As a UMaine freshman and sophomore, Girardin continued to volunteer doing livestock chores. She describes the three months between her sophomore and junior years as “one of the best summers of my life” because she started daily milking chores, beginning at 3:30 a.m. Her animal and veterinary sciences coursework required her to be involved in the care and handling of both cows and horses.

“Witter is my favorite place at UMaine,” she says. “It’s there that I learned the importance of hard work and a job well done. Those animals count on you for their care and you learn a lot when that’s the case.”

In her junior year, Girardin was deciding on possible topics for her senior capstone and honors theses, including the biosecurity implications of infectious disease outbreaks on farms, with the help of her academic adviser, Dr. Anne Lichtenwalner. Lichtenwalner is an assistant professor of animal science and a University of Maine Cooperative Extension veterinarian who directs UMaine’s Animal Health Laboratory, a campus-based service for Maine veterinarians, livestock producers and animal owners.

In addition to providing a variety of diagnostic services, including necropsies and research, Lichtenwalner works with veterinarians, farms and industries to help control problems related to animal health in the state.

“I realized I really liked learning about the mechanisms of disease,” Girardin says. “I had already started applying to vet schools, but realized I wanted to do more than I originally thought. I wanted to do something with food animal health and infectious disease, possibly become a state vet, monitoring diseases while helping to keep production high and implications to the environment and animals low.”

By the end of her junior year, Girardin had decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health, focused on infectious disease and public policy as they relate to domestic food animals. After that, she’ll pursue her degree in veterinary medicine.

Girardin’s hands-on experience in the Animal Health Lab included necropsies on young moose. These were animals found dead in the Maine woods during 2010, and brought to the lab by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife officers to determine the cause of the higher-than-normal mortalities. Lichtenwalner and her team, including senior capstone student Jana Drury, found high counts of lungworm in the young moose, which led to the question — and Girardin’s honors thesis — about the species of the lungworm parasite in Maine moose.

The speciation process involved Girardin learning how to perform DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, cloning and DNA sequencing. The research team isolated a gene from these lungworms whose DNA sequence will be compared to those published in a genome database.

“This procedure allows us to be open to possibly discovering a novel lungworm species — or at least one not previously known to be infecting Maine moose,” says Girardin, whose research was selected for this year’s Undergraduate Research and Academic Showcase on campus. “The lungworms discovered in other studies are not host specific, which means one species of lungworm could infect moose, deer, even cattle. This could have serious implications for the control of the parasite.”

Last September through November during the Maine moose hunt, Girardin joined Inland Fisheries and Wildlife officers at the tagging stations to collect lungs from the gut piles. Moose lungs were collected to analyze the presence or absence of lungworms. If lungworms were found, they were collected for lab work to determine the species that was infecting the moose.

Girardin also assisted Inland Fisheries and Wildlife officers in the collection of moose ovaries for a reproductive health study.

“When I tell people what I do, a lot of them say, ‘Eeeww, why do you want to do that?’” says Girardin, who is president of UMaine’s Pre-Veterinary Club and a resident assistant on campus. “I like being elbows-deep in the gross stuff. We need to know what diseases are affecting our populations of animals — wildlife especially. We need to know if we’re going to have a problem on our hands.

“When you think of Maine, you think of moose and their role in our economy and even our identity as a state. What if all of a sudden they were gone? This is an early project — the problem was just discovered. But we’re taking the reins on it and trying to understand it early to know if we’re going to have a problem with lungworms in the future.”