Sunday, December 31, 2006

dead duck conspiracy

It all started when a hunter found a handful of dead ducks along Land Creek Springs, about 150 miles southeast of Boise, on Friday, Dec. 8/2006. By the following Wednesday, the count was up to 1,000 dead mallard ducks. By Thursday, it grew to 2,500 ...and at least one report has the final count at 3,400 dead ducks.

Photo courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game Department

Eventually, the official cause of death came out on the newswires:
The official cause of death is acute aspergillosis, a respiratory tract infection caused by a fungus commonly found in soil, dead leaves, moldy grain, compost piles, or in other decaying vegetation. It can cause respiratory tract infections in birds that inhale the spores.

"It's not contagious to people, not something for people to worry about. It's a relatively common waterfowl disease. It happens around the country every year," said Tom Hemker, state wildfowl manager.
It's almost like they were saying -- "Nothing to see here. You can all go home. Move along now."

But then one blog had an interesting discussion heat up as one scientist, one medical doctor and one anti-cafo contributor started bringing forth further facts in the case.

Questions were raised:
"The first being the FACT that the local Sheriff's office was kept absolutely out of the loop. WHY? ...According to published news reports, the ONLY way the Sheriff was getting ANY information was through the media outlets. That, in my mind is very telling.)"

"Secondly, WHY is the Idaho State Department of Agriculture involved? Could it have something to do with the fact that there are several VERY large Dairy CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) nearby."
In her lengthy post, the commenter also added:
"If anyone doesn't believe that ISDA is the MASTER of coverup, then do a google search on Washington County and take a look. Twenty two PRIVATE domestic wells were contaminated by a feedlot called Sunnyside. ISDA DENIED the contamination was coming from the feedlot. The neighbors sent water samples to a Scientist with the University of New York at Buffalo... It was ONLY when these test results were made public that ISDA FINALLY ADMITTED THAT THE SOURCE OF THE CONTAMINATION WAS INDEED THE FEEDLOT." (See this link regarding that particular story.)
Another commenter who is "a well-published researcher in M. avium with appropriate credentials" addressed her post with more questions on the subject of cause of death:
"Alma is hitting some serious paydirt with her confined Animal Feeding Operations thought."
And further review of this commenter's posts implicated that something in addition to the aspergillosis spores had to be present in order for such a massive (and presumably fast) mortality to occur in such a concentrated area. The commenter suggests tuberculosis might have been found as well, if acid-tests had also been performed on the dead birds.
"By the way MYCObacterial infections include tuberculosis and leprosy. Tuberculosis can be found in not only humans, but cattle and birds (fowl tuberculosis or Mycobacteria avium). In fact it can be found in all warm-blooded vertebrates and also in human, cattle and bird sewage.) It is also a known disease due to overcrowding, in eiher man or animals. Repeatedly, Mycobacterium avium or fowl tuberculosis has been isolated in the form of a subspecies called Mycobacteria paratuberculosis in the intestines of man, and cattle."
And so began my own little journey through Google, where I found this document from the The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Department of Veterinary Pathology, in which CASE 1 involving a mallard duck death where
"Mycobacterium avium was isolated from the lung, liver and humerus."
The report confirms what the scientist on the blog referenced above was stating --
"Aspergillosis is a common opportunistic infection and should be the top differential when fungi are identified in lesions lining airways. Conidiophores are specialized structures from which asexual spores, or conidia, arise. The end of the conidiophore forms a terminal vesicle which develops sterigmata (phialides) from which chains of conidia are produced. Only if the Aspergillus is growing in a cavity with airspace can it form a 'fungus ball' in which conidia and conidiophores are frequently observed.

The moderator stressed the need to run acid-fast stains on all granulomatous lesions in birds and reptiles in order to detect mycobacterial infections which might otherwise be attributed to an opportunistic infection."
And then I tripped across yet another study involving -- mallard ducks -- of all things... a mass duckling death that occurred in Georgia on a game preserve farm. In this case, just as in the Idaho duck case, Aspergillosis was present in the autopsies, but interestingly the actual cause of death was traced further back from the fungus infection to the "stress" inducer -- namely, E. coli contamination.
"...Aspergillosis has been sporadically reported in multiple free-ranging avian species and, although it may be attributed to an initial debilitating/immunocompromizing insult, it is often the only infectious agent identified. For the 2-wk-old mallard ducklings, the straw litter may have been a contributing factor as the dust created a medium upon which E. coli and Aspergillus spores could attach. Inhalation of the aerosolized dust, created by the ducklings' movements, likely resulted in the introduction of the bacteria and fungal spores into the air sacs.

In summary, good husbandry is a key factor in managing captive-born mallards. Overcrowding, with subsequent gross fecal contamination and poor ventilation were the primary factors in these birds deaths. Further, water contamination of E. coli can pose a potential threat of human exposure to the facility caretakers and possibly to humans and animals downstream from the facility. Additionally, the potential use of subclinically infected birds as game could potentially affect consumers (hunters and their families) either during the cleaning and cooking process or if the meat is undercooked. This case study highlights the importance of good husbandry in facilities that raise captive mallards for game preserves."
Next, let's go to a pet care website where one vet states,
"Aspergillosis is the most common fungal infection in birds caused by aspergella fumigates. Although birds are commonly exposed to the spores of this fungus, they develop the disease only under certain conditions. If a bird's immune system is suppressed by a concurrent illness, malnutrition or stress, it may become sick after exposure. Stress-induced Aspergillosis is frequently seen in birds subjected to surgery, reproduction, environmental changes, capture, confinement or shipping.

Aspergella, as well as other fungi, grows readily in damp, dark conditions with poor ventilation. Encrusted fecal matter, damp feed, dirty feeding utensils and food that falls through cage grates all encourage mold growth. Interestingly, we see a high incidence of Aspergillosis in birds in the southwest where the environment is dry and not conducive to fungal replication. The speculation is the low humidity, coupled with the dusty environment, interferes with the normal mucous secretion in the birds' respiratory tracts and predisposes them to mycoses."
So, in several scientific journals, pathology reports, vetrinary reports and more, it appears the experts are telling us that, in most cases, some other "stressor" has to be present before the Aspergillosis can become invasive enough to cause such a wide-spread death.

Now, we have the formal report from Idaho Fish and Game:
"State and federal officials have confirmed that about 2,500 mallard ducks found dead southeast of Burley, died of an acute fungus infection.

The official cause of death is acute aspergillosis, a respiratory tract infection caused by a fungus commonly found in soil, dead leaves, moldy grain, compost piles, or in other decaying vegetation."

And we have reports, even from the US Army, that in order for this to be the cause of death, another stressor should be present (ie tuberculosis, or e. coli, etc. etc.).

With that in mind, you really have to wonder... if there really is a conspiracy, who is at the helm?

They are calling it an outbreak, and...
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped with the investigation of this outbreak. As well as Dept. of Homeland Security in regards to testing for H5N1. And even, U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center -- QUOTE:

The chances are "extremely high" that Aspergillosis, which can create a fungal toxin on moldy grains and rotting corn, caused the mass die-off, Paul Slota, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., told The Associated Press.

Aspergillosis will not spread from bird to bird. All the dead mallards probably ate from the same tainted food source, Slota said.

"We've seen that before with birds that feed heavily on grains," he said. "Never in Idaho, but there have been enough reports elsewhere in North America. Aspergillosis die-offs are not a terribly uncommon thing. It happens."
Never in Idaho... hmmmm... which brings up a question of what happened to the 500 mallards that died the previous year in Iowa?

I also refer back to the F&W quote, "It's not contagious to people, not something for people to worry about. It's a relatively common waterfowl disease."Now why would he say that when spores that cause Aspergillosis have also been found by the Center for Disease Control to be...
"Ubiquitous in the environment. Found in soil, decomposing plant matter, household dust, building materials, ornamental plants, items of food, and water."
And a Merck drug site states,
"Aspergillus is very common and is frequently found in compost heaps, air vents, and airborne dust. Inhalation of Aspergillus spores is the primary cause of aspergillosis.

Aspergillosis usually affects open spaces in the body, such as cavities that have formed in the lungs from preexisting lung diseases. The infection may also occur in the ear canals and sinuses."
Interestingly enough, in the Idaho dead duck case, they haven't found the supposed source of the supposed contaminated grain.

And here in Jasper County, 4 out of 5 BZA members believe a calf farm located in the center of more than 800 homes poses no public health threat whatsoever. And for the record, the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Manager, Jim Bergen, believes manure from a hog CAFO won't have any effect on wildlife, either. What do 2500 dead Sandhill Cranes look like? (shudder)

Happy New Year!

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