Southern AZ Rabies Update

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors lifted the rabies quarantine back in this spring. Below is a link to a review (in map form) of positive cases over the last couple of years.

If you’re riding, hiking, or simply out wandering around, please be aware. Same goes for your livestock or pets in the area. Be aware of the risks and consider vaccination. Rabies isn’t one of those recommended learning experiences.

2015-07-20 Skunk Map Southern AZ 2013-15

Bug Borne Disease Update

A couple of points from a report AZ Dept Health Services released yesterday concerning what’s going on in 2015:

  • 34 mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile virus; all positive pools were identified in Maricopa County
  • 13 confirmed or probable cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted-Fever (RMSF)
  • 14 suspect cases of RMSF

Keep those mosquitoes and ticks at bay!

VSV Slowing??? WNV Growing???

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV)

There were only a few more suspect VSV cases reported last week. All but one were in the same general vicinity as our earlier cases. The exception was a suspect much further up the Verde River. So in a real sense, not an exception after all.

Please continue to exercise good insect control and sanitation. There has been an apparent spread from an infected horse to another premises, and in this situation likely through a contaminated bit.

Let’s hope this outbreak is about to have run its course.

West Nile Virus (WNV)

There is an ad hoc public health group which holds a monthly conference call. Folks from various organizations discuss current developments so that all of us have a better situational awareness. Something I learned about an hour ago on this month’s call is that Maricopa County has already confirmed its first human case of arboviral infection. Also there have been over a dozen mosquito samples positive for WNV, basically occurring from one end of the county to the other.

I strongly urge you to have your horses vaccinated.

Public Health Alert: Plague diagnosed in Yavapai County cat

Yavapai County Community Health Service issued a warning yesterday that one cat from the Jerome area has been diagnosed with Plague and two other cats are being tested for the disease.  Click on the link to read the Yavapai County Press Release.

In Arizona, Plague naturally occurs in Prairie Dogs, Ground Squirrels and other wild rodents. Animals with Plague are generally found at elevations above 4,500 feet. Click on the link to view Life Cycle of Plague in the US.

Animals that can be infected with the Plague bacteria include: Cats, Dogs, Rodents, Goats, Llamas, Camels, Mule Deer, and Mountain Lions. There are no reports of Plague in Cattle, Horses, Sheep and Pigs. More information can be found on this Plague Fast Fact Sheet.

There have been only two persons diagnosed with Plague in Arizona since 2000. People can be exposed to plague by handling infected animals or being bitten by fleas carrying the bacteria. For more information on Plague in people, go to the Arizona Department of Health Services web site.

If you have concerns about the health of your pets or livestock, contact your local veterinarian.

Behind the Scenes: Producers Prepared

Poultry and Egg Producers, are you ready for HPAI?

Since March, media has spread the word about the history of HPAI in the US and countries banning US poultry and egg imports. Fortunately, they have also advised that humans are considered to be at low risk of contracting H5 HPAI and as of today, no human H5 HPAI infections have been detected.

What the media is not sharing are the preparedness efforts taking place behind-the-scenes to minimize risk of HPAI exposure to poultry and egg producers. One of these efforts would be the Secure Egg Supply Plan.

This plan has measures in place to ensure eggs are safe for consumption and available. Egg movement is a concern for spreading the disease through the industry and to other birds, but there is no indication that a person could contract AI through eating eggs. The SES plan contains specific science and risk based recommendations necessary for federal and state official’s to use; allowing the permit processing for egg movement to be expedited during an HPAI outbreak.

The SES plan has a voluntary preparedness component and those businesses choosing to participate aim to be compliant with a 45 item biosecurity checklist, verified GPS coordinates and have training on epidemiology questionnaires, sample collection and submission as well as data entry into the SES portal to be conducive to an active surveillance program. To date, five State Animal Health Officials have requested to be enrolled in the SES voluntary preparedness plan and many more are showing interest as the outbreaks of HPAI are on the rise.

Egg Producers-the great thing about this plan is non-infected commercial egg businesses utilizing this plan can move eggs without unnecessary disruption thus reducing incidence of cold storage back-up and spoiled eggs.

The main point is be proactive rather than reactive and as a result those who choose to take part in this preparedness plan will be better equipped to handle an outbreak if one should occur on their premise.

For more information on the SES plan please see:

AVMA Ebola Virus FAQ

In the last couple of days, several pieces of information have been issued in the Ebola Virus world.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has published a couple of guides for their members. Plus their Ebola Virus FAQ covers several aspects of the questions of animals and Ebola.

One point that might allay some folks’ fears comes from a study that found no virus in dogs that were studied in a Gabon outbreak that occurred in 2001-2002.

Also a very good discussion of Ebola and Dogs covers the scientific evidence on the subject. I think the information on this page is presented in an understandable manner. No easy feat with this topic.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held another conference call on the matter yesterday. They have a specific page devoted to the concerns of parents and school officials. Their FAQ on Ebola and pets and other animals can be found here.

The last item in this update of responses to the ebola situation that I’d like to note is that the Governor’s Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Council is meeting 10 AM Nov 7 in the AZ Public Health Lab Conf Room.

Stay safe. But remember to enjoy the ride.

AZ Statutes and the State Vet

Given that we are supposed to be a nation of laws which are to be enacted by those we elect to represent us, I thought it might be educational to enumerate the laws that pertains to the office of State Veterinarian in AZ. Each one contains a link to the actual online version of the statute.

The rules that pertains (ie the sections of AZ Administrative Code) are too lengthy to include but realize the statutes are what authorize any rule to be promulgated.

Lastly I’ll point out 3-1205 and 3-1742. Those authorize the state veterinarian to enter and seize under certain conditions. That’s a lot of power which should be used cautiously, as there’s a very old and true saying about power.

Title 3: Agriculture


Article 1. Department of Agriculture


Article 4. Brucellosis Control


Chapter 15. Animal and Bird Feeds

Article 3. Garbage Fed to Swine

Title 17: Game and Fish



Title 36: Public Health and Safety


Article 9. Enhanced Surveillance Advisories and Public Health Emergencies

118th USAHA Meeting

I just returned from the 118th Annual Meeting of the United States Animal Health Association which was held in conjunction with the 57th Annual Conference of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. Obviously these folks have been around a while. This means some of us are starting to move a little slower than we used to; it also means many have seen disasters and concerns from large to small, be met and successfully overcome. That’s probably a good thought to keep in mind some days.

This post will hopefully provide ya’ll some insight and highlights from the meeting. I hope it helps folks get a sense of what folks in my line of work are trying to do to mitigate the various threats to human and animal health. I also hope to impress upon folks the huge scope of the job. In the meeting program, I count 33 committees which have been formed to address subjects ranging from Animal Emergency Management to Bluetongue & Related Orbiviruses to Foreign & Emerging Diseases to who-knows-what.

Here’s a sampler of some of the presentations:

  • Foot and Mouth Vaccine Surge Capacity for Use in the U.S.A.
  • The Impact of Movements and Animal Density on Continental Scale Cattle Disease Outbreaks in the United States
  • Emerging Diseases of Global Concern with a Focus on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
  • Merging Pathogen Surveillance and Research: Stealth Persistence of an Ema Superfamily Variant of Theirleria equi
  • The Significance of Surra as an Infection in Horses
  • Trends in Food Safety: Public Perception versus Reality

Obviously some of the discussion occur up there in some very rarefied air. Just about every species known comes up in some place or fashion. However much of what is discussed is at the boots-on-the-ground level. Much information is spread informally as we talk with our peers about things tried in other locales along with what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve.

A good example of this would be information on how the folks in the state vet’s office in Washington dealt with the SAR (search and rescue) dogs that were deployed following the massive Oso, WA mudslide in March, 2014.

Not only do the people involved in SAR need a lot of support, so do the animals involved such as the dogs who help locate trapped individuals or recover bodies. Those dogs get all sorts of cuts, abrasions, bruises and become covered with contaminated materials of all types. Vets, vet techs and others accompany these response units to support these “first responders”. A small case in point: too many baths aren’t good for their coats or their skin. Sometimes detergents like Dawn are just the thing (like dealing with oil spills). But sometimes an old fashioned oatmeal bath does the trick. Sharing knowledge of what works in the real world is vital.

Just as vital is having folks engaged in the business of producing and protecting the food and fiber production systems in the country. Give it some thought. And give us a call. We can probably find a place for you to help and something you might find interesting as well.

Enjoy the ride!

Talking About Ebola Virus

Note that word “talking” in the title of this post. Not “screaming” nor “panicking“. I’m going to try to convey a few points that we know and some of what is scientifically sound. Before too long I hope to post some specifics about the virus and animals. But for the moment, let’s get started with background.

The library of papers I’ve put together to get up to speed on this subject is getting fairly thick. I’ve collected about 2 dozen. So if you are looking for some reading material, please let me know. I’m also fortunate enough to have become acquainted with someone during this year who has some firsthand experiences in this realm. I’ve already been in touch with him. I intend to pick his brain clean.

First – here is the CDC’s FAQ page on Ebola and pets.

Key Point: At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread it to people or other animals. There is limited evidence that dogs become infected but no evidence they develop disease.

Let me take just a few minutes to elaborate on that last statement.

Our immune systems are constantly evaluating invaders and often making antibodies and other response-capable cells to those invaders. So finding antibodies to anything in particular is NOT proof of disease. It is only proof that the animal’s immune system saw something and responded – which generally is a good thing.

Think of it this way.

If you’re driving in Phoenix traffic at 7am and you see a car ahead of you swerving between lanes you likely respond by slowing down and considering your options. Maybe the guy will crash into something and start a huge mess. But maybe he swerved to avoid a dog running into his lane. The dog then ran back off the road and that driver went on without further incident.

You however did respond. It’s much the same with the “infection” scenario above and your (and as best we know all other mammalian) immune system(s). Understand about the dog and not developing disease now?

Next – here is the CDC’s Emerging Disease Page spotlighting Ebola – general info and links to further reading. Much of that linked reading gets very in-depth. But if you want to know for yourself what research exists, there you are.

Sorry to be so short. But I’m currently roaming the range. Remember to try to enjoy the ride!

Food Safety Conference

Lately I’ve been engaged in more of the public health aspects of this job. Some folks may not be aware of the many roles which the state vet plays in ensuring food and fiber are delivered from the livestock which are roaming Arizona ranges. Years ago the people of Arizona vested a huge amount of power in this position to secure and protect that food supply as well as to protect the livelihood of many.

An aspect of that power then is the obligation for me and the other folks in this office to frequently reinforce in the public space an awareness of the integrated nature of livestock ownership within food production and the constraints (or maybe more aptly put, the non-constrained elements like wind, water, fire) that livestock and agricultural production in general are subject to. (That sounds a little wordy to me too.)

Let’s look at it this way.

Most folks long ago lost touch with the whims of the natural world, other than perhaps during their daily commute or via televised media. But all food production happens “out there” in the wild and woolly natural world. Birds fly over the crops. (Have you checked your car for bombing runs lately?) Javelina, mice, coyotes, maybe even bears wander through the fields. (And we all know what bears do in the woods!) Various and sundry bugs lay their eggs on cattle which then eat their way through those animals if treatments aren’t applied.

This may not be polite conversation. But it is my picture of some of the challenges of protecting the food supply in the real world becoming clearer? These risks, to both the animals and the crops as well as the humans they will provide food for, must be mitigated. Please note I did not say “removed”. This mitigation requires all parties to participate, including especially consumers, because any carelessness along the way can undo all the invested good by all other parties involved.

Let me focus this topic a little more intently. Last week I spoke at the 5th Annual Food Safety Conference hosted by The University of Arizona. Here’s a sampling of talks given:

and here are some samples from the grad students posters (which btw were of very good quality across the board)…

  • Canal Maintenance Effects on Irrigation Water Quality
  • Testing Bacterial Contamination of Bulk Soap in Food Service Settings
  • Pathogen Transmission to Crops from Animals

The intricacy and inherent nature of biological systems (aka plants, animals, people) bring a whole host of challenges to providing food. That system isn’t inside an artificial bubble (at least to any significant extent and those that are still have inherent risks.) Which means at its most basic, food sources are exposed to most all of the waste products of various biological systems. You could also look at that as organic fertilization.

But don’t run screaming into the streets or sink into despair just yet. All these same players (including humans) are also built to deal with the environment and its challenges. Most species have been around a few bazillion years. Some talk of a “fragile” Mother Nature. Life on this planet has taken some pretty serious whacks and it keeps coming back. I’d call that awfully resilient and very impressive.

Before I go wandering too far, let me bring this back to the Food Safety Conference for one other point. The aging work force in the food production business.

How many of you recognize a pencil as technology? I’ll bet no one nodded his/her head to that one. But it is. It is an invisible technology. That’s what has happened to agriculture in our society, with the possible exception of when an occasional fear-mongering event jolts folks into talking about food production. But rarely have I seen that lead to more people actually educating themselves on the facts of the processes involved. Which is a shame as that does generate an opportunity. And as I told my kids when they were growing up, “Life isn’t fair but it presents you with opportunities. You decide what to do with them.” But because agriculture and food production is invisible very few people consider pursuing careers in this very important field. That’s a situation we need to change.

Time for me to wrap this one up. Next up will be some info on the hot topic of Ebola. In the meantime, y’all enjoy the ride.