White rhino shot dead at Florida safari park after ‘aggressively’ escaping enclosure

Exposing the Big Game

by:Athina Morris

Posted:Feb 1, 2023 / 09:29 AM EST

Updated:Feb 1, 2023 / 09:41 AM EST

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A white rhinoceros was shot dead less than a day after it arrived at a Florida wildlife park last year, wildlife officials said this week.

According to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the incident occurred Sept. 19 at Wild Florida, a gator and drive-thru safari park about 60 miles south of Orlando in Kenansville.The park acknowledged the incident in a Facebook poston Monday.

The report said FWC investigators were called to the park about a week later after getting an anonymous tip that called the shooting “animal abuse” and “unnecessary.”

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The animal was delivered to the park the day prior and was “acting very wild,” the park’s owner, Jordan Munns, told investigators. The animal was crated on a…

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Mass death of seals raises fears bird flu is jumping between mammals, threatening new pandemic

EXCLUSIVE

Avian flu has been found in seals that died a ‘mass mortality event’ in the Caspian Sea. Now scientists are investigating whether it is the first transmission of the virus between mammals in the wild

DAGESTAN, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 07: A woman shows signboard about seals in Dagestan, Russia on December 07, 2022. In total, 2500 seals have been dead and around 700 of them have been found on the coast of the Kirovsky district of Dagestan. (Photo by Denis Abramov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
An information sign about seals in Dagestan. In total, 2,500 seals have been found dead, about 700 on the coast of the Kirovsky district of Dagestan (Photo: Denis Abramov/Anadolu/Getty)

By Jane Merrick

Policy Editor

https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/mass-death-of-seals-raises-fears-bird-flu-is-jumping-between-mammals-threatening-new-pandemic-2121376

February 1, 2023 1:48 pm(Updated February 2, 2023 2:24 pm)

Scientists are investigating the possibility that bird flu has been transmitted between mammals in the wild for the first time – fuelling fears it could lead to the next pandemic in humans.

In what is being described as a “mass mortality event”, more than 700 seals were found dead in December in the Caspian Sea, near to where the highly contagious H5N1 variant of avian flu was found in wild birds months earlier.

Scientists from Dagestan State University have identified bird flu in tissue from the dead seals, although it is too early to say whether it was the cause of death or if the animals transmitted it to each other.

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The situation is being monitored by the UK Government, i has learned, with Defra and the UK Health Security Agency being given regular updates.

Individual seals and other mammals have previously been infected with avian flu directly from birds, but up until now the only recorded incidents of it transmitting between mammals is among mink bred in close quarters in captivity at a farm in Spain.

If the H5N1 variant has adapted to pass between mammals, virologists fear that it could make a further evolutionary jump to become transmissible between humans and trigger a pandemic.

There is currently no evidence that the virus can pass between humans. Since the latest global outbreak of H5N1 began a year ago, fewer than 10 people have caught the virus, directly from close contact with poultry or other birds, and only one human death has been reported.

But samples from four mink which caught H5N1 in an outbreak at a mink farm in Galicia, northwestern Spain, in October revealed changes in the virus, including a mutation called T271A which can more easily replicate in mammalian tissue.

If it is confirmed that bird flu was passed between the seals in the Caspian Sea, it would be the first known transmission between mammals in the wild.

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Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, told i: “If this turns out to be sustained transmission in a wild mammalian species this is yet another worrying ‘first’ with these H5N1s that shouldn’t be ignored. It would be yet more evidence these H5N1s could be poised to cause the next pandemic.”

Defra is aware of the developments in the Caspian Sea and the report by Dagestan State University that it has identified avian flu in seal tissue, i understands.

The latest risk assessment from the UK Health Security Agency is that the risk to the human population from bird flu is “very low”, but that there is evidence that the H5N1 strain has evolved to become more easily replicated in mammals.

The current threat is Level 3, that there is “evidence of viral genomic changes that provide an advantage for mammalian infection”, which is one below Level 4, evidence of sustained mammal-to-mammal transmission, and two below Level 5, human-to-human transmission.

H5N1 has been responsible for the deaths, from both infection and culling, of millions of birds in the UK and globally, with farmers ordered to bring free range turkey and other poultry indoors from last autumn.

In the waters around Britain, stranded seals are collected and any possible cause of death is investigated for disease including avian flu. No seals, dolphins or whales have yet tested positive for bird flu around Britain during the current outbreak, which began in December 2021, but there have been previous cases in these sea mammals.

The UKHSA has advised people not to handle sick or dead poultry or other birds.

Announcing that avian flu had been identified in the Caspian seals, Dagestan State University said: “Preliminary studies of the mass mortality of Caspian seals showed that the animals were infected with avian influenza. At the same time, it is too early to conclude that it was the virus that caused the death, research is ongoing.”

Alimurad Gadzhiev, director of the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development at DSU, said: “Specialists of the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development, together with colleagues from the Research Institute of Virology and experts from the Compass Foundation, took tissue samples from dead seals in December to determine the causes of death. Based on the first results, we can say that the samples tested positive for bird flu.”

The incident in Dagestan was first reported by the Avian Flu Diary blog, which said: “While we’ve seen a number of different influenza A viruses infect seals in the past – including H3N8, H10N8, H7N7, etc. – HPAI H5N1 is the most obvious suspect right now. Hopefully we’ll get confirmation in the days ahead.”

Ukraine warns Putin has amassed troops for a major and imminent offensive

Story by Raf Sanchez and Daryna Mayer and Erika Angulo • 1h ago

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KYIV, Ukraine — As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the one-year mark, Kyiv is sounding an increasingly urgent warning: Vladimir Putin is preparing a major new offensive.

Ukrainian officials say they fear that Russia’s military is regrouping and preparing an imminent attack designed to turn the tide of the war in Moscow’s favor — its ranks bolstered by hundreds of thousands of conscripts called up last fall.

“We should understand that the threat of a new and another offensive will remain until we defeat Russia,” Yuriy Sak, a senior defense ministry official, told NBC News in an interview Thursday.

A spring offensive has long been predicted by Western officials and analysts, with the Kremlin eager to seize the initiative after a grinding winter that was preceded by months of battlefield setbacks and domestic criticism.

But leaders in Kyiv now say that Russia has amassed a large force ready to attack soon, in the run-up to the Feb. 24 anniversary.

Fears of further Russian offensive one year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP via Getty Images)© Yasuyoshi Chiba

Speaking to French media on Wednesday, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said Russia had 500,000 troops ready for an assault in the coming weeks, nearly double the number Putin announced he was mobilizing in September.

“Officially, they announced 300,000, but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more,” he said.

Ukrainian officials have been issuing growing warnings, but Reznikov’s comments are the most detailed description yet of what Kyiv sees as an imminent threat.

Reznikov — who was in Paris to press the French government for weapons — said Russia was likely to attack from either the east or the south.

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In the east, Ukrainian commanders face an agonizing choice of whether to withdraw from the city of Bakhmut or hold their positions despite punishing losses and the growing risk of encirclement in a bitter fight that has taken on symbolic as well as strategic importance.

“As their main forces are concentrated in the east, we do expect them to begin an offensive there, perhaps around Bakhmut,” Sak said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered a similar assessment in his nightly video address. “The situation has become tougher” in the area, Zelenskyy said.

“The enemy is trying to achieve at least something now to show that Russia has some chances on the anniversary of the invasion,” he added.

Putin inspects training of mobilized recruits (Kremlin Press / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file)© Kremlin Press

In the south, Russia’s forces are arrayed along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River and within striking distance of the crucial city of Kherson. The regional capital was the first major city to fall to Russian troops in the early days of the war, but they were forced into an embarrassing retreat in November to more defensible positions over the river.

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Andrii Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said Thursday he had briefed Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, about the threat of a new offensive.

“There was an exchange of views regarding the possible actions of the enemy in the near future,” Yermak said on Twitter.

In the weeks before Russia’s full-scale invasion, the U.S. declassified and made public intelligence showing the scale of Putin’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders. So far, the U.S. has not publicly released intelligence about a possible new offensive. 

Russia’s military plans are a closely-guarded secret.

But Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said his diplomats would try to compete with and overshadow pro-Ukraine public events in Western cities on the anniversary of the war.

“Our diplomats will do everything to ensure that any mayhem planned for the anniversary of the special military operation at the end of February in New York and elsewhere — the West is now actively planning it along with the Kyiv regime — so that these events were not the only ones to grab the international community’s attention,” Lavrov said Thursday.

At least three people were killed February 1, 2023 and 20 wounded when a Russian rocket struck a residential building in the centre of the eastern city of Kramatorsk, Ukrainian officials said. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP – Getty Images)© Yasuyoshi Chiba

Amid the different scenarios for a Russian attack, one consensus has emerged: it appears unlikely that Russia will strike from Belarus and make another attempt to seize Kyiv. 

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said earlier this week that “an imminent Russian offensive in the coming months is the most likely course of action,” though its latest daily brief assessed “that a Russian invasion from Belarus is exceedingly unlikely.”

The receding threat to Kyiv has allowed a wary calm to settle over the capital.

The city is still being targeted by Russian missiles on a grimly-regular cycle, meaning air defense systems are nestled discreetly near government buildings in the city center. And in many areas, electricity is still intermittent as Moscow’s military targets the power grid.

But tension is far from where it was 11 months ago, when Russian forces were at the edge of the city and appeared poised to storm the presidential palace.

Restaurants are open, supermarket shelves are full, and dog walkers take their pets for walks in the city’s snowy parks.

On a recent morning, Nazir Vilan, a 20-year-old veterinary student, was strolling near a city museum. He was in Kyiv to see his girlfriend.

Vilan told NBC News he was worried about a new Russian offensive, but not in Kyiv. And despite the bitter cold and looming conflict, he smiled as he expressed hope for his country’s future.

“This country is very beautiful. It’s the nicest country even during the war,” he said. “Every history has many examples when people have hard times. Hard times, but also good times.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

N. Korea warns of ‘overwhelming nuclear force’ to counter US

Story by By KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press • Yesterday 3:02 PM

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Thursday it’s prepared to counter U.S. military moves with the “most overwhelming nuclear force” as it warned that the expansion of the United States’ military exercises with rival South Korea is pushing tensions to an “extreme red line.”

In this photo provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, center, F-22 fighter jets and South Korean Air Force F-35 fighter jets, bottom, fly over South Korea Peninsula during a joint air drill in South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2023. North Korea on Thursday threatened the “toughest reaction” to the United States’ expanding joint military exercises with South Korea to counter the North’s growing nuclear weapons ambitions, claiming that the allies were pushing tensions to an “extreme red line.” (South Korean Defense Ministry via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press

The statement by Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry came in response to comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said Tuesday in Seoul that the United States would increase its deployment of advanced military assets to the Korean Peninsula, including fighter jets and aircraft carriers, as it strengthens joint training and operational planning with South Korea.

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 2. 2023. North Korea said Thursday it’s prepared to counter U.S. military moves with the “most overwhelming nuclear force” as it warned that the expansion of the United States’ combined military exercises with rival South Korea is pushing tensions to an “extreme red line.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)© Provided by The Associated Press

South Korea’s security jitters have risen since North Korea test-fired dozens of missiles in 2022, including potentially nuclear-capable ones designed to strike targets in South Korea and the U.S. mainland.

In a statement attributed to an unidentified spokesperson of its Foreign Ministry, North Korea said the expansion of the allies’ drills is threatening to turn the Korean Peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone.” The statement said the North is prepared to counter any short- or long-term military challenge with the “most overwhelming nuclear force.”

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korean missiles in a military parade during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 2. 2023. North Korea said Thursday it’s prepared to counter U.S. military moves with the “most overwhelming nuclear force” as it warned that the expansion of the United States’ combined military exercises with rival South Korea is pushing tensions to an “extreme red line.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)© Provided by The Associated Press

“The military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red line due to the reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces,” the spokesperson said.

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North Korea for decades has described the United States’ combined military exercises with South Korea as rehearsals for a potential invasion, although the allies have described those drills as defensive.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the United States flew B-1B bombers and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets in an exercise Wednesday with South Korean fighters above South Korea’s western waters. The United States and South Korea are also planning to a joint simulation this month aimed at sharpening their response if North Korea uses nuclear weapons.

The North Korean statement portends another provocative run in weapons demonstrations in 2023, similar to how the North ramped up its own weapons launches in 2022 as the allies resumed their large-scale training. North Korea’s actions included a slew of missile and artillery launches that it described as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and U.S. targets.

“DPRK will take the toughest reaction to any military attempt of the U.S. on the principle of ‘nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation!’” the North Korean spokesperson said, invoking the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Related video: Kim Yo-jong, the dictator’s sister and North Korea’s likely future leader, here is what we know (Dailymotion)

“If the U.S. continues to introduce strategic assets into the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding area, the DPRK will make clearer its deterring activities without fail according to their nature,” the spokesperson said.

When asked about the North Korean statement in the Philippines on Thursday, Austin said the United States is “very serious” about its commitment to defending South Korea and will continue to work alongside its allies and “train and ensure that we maintain credible and ready forces.”

Ahn Eunju, spokesperson of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said North Korea’s expansion of its nuclear weapons and missile program and verbal threats of preemptive nuclear attacks have forced Seoul to react sternly to ensure the protection of its citizens.

“North Korea is the one that’s elevating tensions on the Korean Peninsula by rejecting dialogue offers from South Korea and the United States and making nuclear and missile provocations and threats,” she said, urging Pyongyang to return to denuclearization talks.

Jeon Ha Gyu, spokesperson of South Korea’s Defense Ministry, said the allies’ latest aerial drills were aimed at demonstrating the credibility of the U.S. “extended deterrence,” referring to a commitment to use the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear ones, to defend South Korea. He declined to reveal the exact number of U.S. and South Korean aircraft involved in the exercise.

In a news conference following their meeting on Tuesday, Austin said he and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup agreed to further expand their combined military exercises, including more live-fire demonstrations. They pledged to continue a “timely and coordinated” deployment of U.S. strategic assets to the region.

The allies had previously downsized their training in recent years to create room for diplomacy with North Korea during the Trump administration and because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea and the United States have also been strengthening their security cooperation with Japan, which recently included trilateral missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises during a provocative run in North Korean weapons tests.

“We deployed fifth-generation aircraft, F-22s and F-35s, we deployed a carrier strike group to visit the peninsula. You can look for more of that kind of activity going forward,” Austin said.

Tensions could further rise with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doubling down on his nuclear ambitions.

During a political conference in December, Kim called for an “exponential increase” in nuclear warheads, mass production of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons targeting South Korea, and the development of more powerful long-range missiles designed to reach the U.S. mainland.

Kim could showcase his growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles next week as commercial satellite images indicate preparations for a huge military parade in capital Pyongyang, likely for the 75th founding anniversary of its army that falls on Feb. 8.

Experts say Kim’s nuclear push is aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power so it can negotiate badly needed economic concessions from a position of strength. Nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea stopped in 2019 because of disagreements over a relaxation of U.S.-led economic sanctions against the North in exchange for steps by North Korea to wind down its nuclear weapons and missiles programs.

The North Korean spokesperson said Pyongyang isn’t interested in any contact or dialogue with the United States as long as it maintains its “hostile policy and confrontational line,” saying Washington is trying to force Pyongyang to “disarm itself unilaterally.”

__

AP writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to the story.

JR

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Pestilence: Another Consequence of Losing the Cryosphere and the Permafrost

Kevin Hester

The Corona 19 virus has had an unprecedented effect on our complex, interlinked global economy. It is merely a forewarning of what we have unleashed as the cryosphere and the permafrost melts.
“For the past 15,000 years, a glacier on the north-western Tibetan Plateau of China has hosted a party for some unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science.”

“Scientists recently broke up this party after taking a look at two ice cores from this Tibetan glacier, revealing the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups.” Only two ice cores uncovered 28 new viruses.

Investigating these mysterious viruses could help scientists on two fronts: For one, these stowaways can teach researchers which viruses thrived in different climates and environments over time, the researchers wrote in a paper posted on the bioRxiv database on Jan. 7. Ancient never-before-seen viruses discovered locked up in…

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Wildlife Advocates Sue Feds for Trapping, Relocating, and Killing Problem Grizzliesby angelamontana

Posted: January 24, 2023

https://www.montanaoutdoor.com/2023/01/wildlife-advocates-sue-feds-for-trapping-relocating-and-killing-problem-grizzlies/

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Oh goodness. Have you heard?

On Jan. 18 the Western Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Montana-based organizations against a smattering of federal land and wildlife management agencies and officials. Their complaint? Euthanizing or relocating problem grizzly bears actively works against species recovery goals under the Endangered Species Act.

Animal activism organization WildEarth Guardians joined with Trap Free Montana and the Western Watersheds Project, an organization that denounces public-land livestock grazing, as plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed in Montana District Court. They mainly challenge activities of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, commonly known as APHIS. The Wildlife Services branch of APHIS offers predator management assistance out of its state offices, largely for livestock producers.

Dalin Tidwell, director of the Montana state office, is among the defendants named in the suit. He is joined by the Deputy Administrator of APHIS Wildlife Services, the secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and APHIS, the USDA, and USFWS at-large.

Read the full article by Katie Hill via Outdoor Life here.

Worst Bird Flu Outbreak in U.S. History Kills Millions

January 31, 2023 News Editor Spotlight Comments Offon Worst Bird Flu Outbreak in U.S. History Kills Millions

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RIVERDALE, Maryland, January 31, 2023 (ENS) – Wild birds and commercially raised chickens alike are dropping dead from bird flu by the millions across the United States. Red-tailed hawks and great horned owls in Wyoming, American and Canadian wild birds along the Atlantic coast and across the Midwest, and 58.2 million birds in commercial and backyard poultry flocks in 47 states have died in the past year, reports the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

That number of 58.2 million birds affected is way over the largest previous bird flu outbreak in the United States in 2015 that affected 50.5 million birds in just 21 states.

Domestic poultry that can be affected include chickens; turkeys; ring-necked pheasants; ducks; geese; common, Japanese, or bobwhite quail; Indian peafowl; chukar or grey partridge; pigeons; ostrich; and guinea fowl.

The National Chicken Council, a U.S. trade association, assures consumers that the food supply is safe, saying, “All U.S. flocks are tested year-round for avian influenza, and if a single bird in a flock were to test positive for avian flu, then none of those birds would be allowed to enter the food supply.”

Wild turkeys, ducks and geese are at greater risk than some other species, it appears. Confirmed cases of the avian flu have killed wild waterfowl in Brevard, Volusia and Indian River counties, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission first announced in February 2022.

Bird flu is caused by influenza Type A viruses. Avian-origin influenza viruses have combinations of two groups of proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus – hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1-H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are nine (N1-N9).

Avian influenza viruses are classified as either “low pathogenic” or “highly pathogenic” based on their genetic features and the severity of the disease they cause in poultry. Most viruses are of low pathogenicity, meaning they cause no signs or only minor clinical signs of inflection in poultry.

But the bird flu now sweeping the country is H5N1, considered to be a highly pathogenic avian influenza, HPAI – and it is not confined to birds.

Bird Flu Spreads to Mammals

Scientists have documented the first cases in wild grizzly bears. The three juvenile bears, which were euthanized last fall in Montana, later tested positive for the virus, the state’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department announced January 17.

These were the first documented cases of HPAI in grizzly bears, but on Alaska’s Kodiak Island an infected Kodiak bear was found last December.

Harbor seals have been found with the disease in Maine; a bottlenose dolphin became sick in Florida; skunks, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, and bobcats have been reported sick with avian influenza across the country, and foxes have been infected with the virus in Michigan, Alaska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and New York.

“We suspect these mammals probably get the virus from consuming infected birds,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey.

Infection may cause illness, including severe disease and death in some cases.

Yes, Bird Flu Can Jump to Unwary Humans

As of January 5, 2023, a total of 240 cases of human infection with the H5N1 bird flu virus have been reported from four countries within the Western Pacific Region since January 2003. Of these cases, 135 were fatal, resulting in a case fatality rate of 56 percent.

On January 10, Ecuador reported its first case of human transmission of avian influenza.

Although the overall risk to the general public from the current bird flu outbreaks remains low, health officials say, it is important that people take preventive measures around infected or potentially infected wild birds and poultry to prevent the spread of bird flu viruses to themselves or to other birds and other animals, including pets.

A healthy flock of Buff Orpington backyard chickens in Alma, Arkansas, June 3, 2022. (Photo by John Lovett courtesy University of Arkansas System Division of Ag)

This applies not just to workplace or wildlife settings but potentially to household settings where people have backyard flocks or pet birds with potential exposures to wild or domestic infected birds.

To prevent infection, people should avoid unprotected contact with wild or domestic birds and poultry that look sick or have died.

Bird flu infections in people happen most often after close, prolonged, and unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with bird flu viruses.

If contact cannot be avoided, people should minimize contact with wild birds or sick or dead poultry by taking the following precautions:

  • – Wear personal protective equipment, PPE, like disposable gloves, boots, an N95 respirator if available, or if not available, wear a well-fitting facemask, such as a surgical mask, and eye protection. Specific CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture PPE recommendations are available at “Backyard Flock Owners: Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)”. To access, click here.
  • – Don’t touch sick or dead birds, their feces or litter, or any surface or water source such as ponds, waterers, buckets, pans, and troughs that might be contaminated with their bodily fluids without wearing personal protective equipment.
  • – While cleaning and disinfecting contaminated premises, avoid stirring up dust, bird waste, and feathers to prevent virus from dispersing into the air.
  • – Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes during and after contact with birds or surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous or feces from wild or domestic birds/poultry.
  • – Wash your hands with soap and water after touching birds/poultry.
  • – Change your clothes before contact with healthy domestic poultry and after handling wild birds, captive wild birds, farmed birds, and other pet birds. Then, throw away the gloves and facemask, and wash your hands with soap and water.

U.S. Preparing a New Environmental Impact Statement

On January 18, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced its intention to prepare an environmental impact statement, EIS, to examine the potential environmental effects of the agency’s response activities to HPAI outbreaks in commercial and backyard poultry operations in the United States.

APHIS is requesting public comment to further define the scope of the EIS, identify reasonable alternatives and potential issues, as well as relevant information, studies, and/or analyses that APHIS should consider in the EIS.

Additional information on this action can be found here.

HPAI Felt Around the World

New Outbreaks in Poultry

The most recent report from the World Organisation for Animal Health, WOAH, based in Paris shows that during the five weeks between December 2, 2022 and January 5, 2023 a total of 288 new outbreaks in poultry were reported by 17 countries: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Niger, Poland, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.

New Outbreaks in Wild Birds

A Northern gannet, a wild bird, dead from avian influenza. Sweden, September 10, 2022 (Photo by Blondinrikard Fröberg)

During the five-week period covered by WOAH’s latest report, a total of 139 outbreaks in non-poultry were reported by 24 countries and territories: Austria, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States.

The current HPAI epidemic season continues with about 290 outbreaks being reported in poultry and about 140 in nonpoultry birds over the five weeks covered by the report, mainly in Europe, and also in the Americas, Asia and Africa.

Many of the countries in these regions are experiencing a larger number of outbreaks than occurred last year at the same time. Outbreaks are also spreading further to Central and South American countries.

WOAH points out that the first occurrence of HPAI in Panama, Honduras, Venezuela and the recurrence in Chile after 20 years of absence happened during these five weeks, all in nonpoultry birds. In Peru, the disease was reported in poultry during the period covered by this report, in addition to nonpoultry infections previously reported.

Over 10 million birds died or were culled worldwide during the five week period between December 2, 2022 and January 5, 2023.

Featured image: Wood duck drake and a flock of mallards overwintering on a small creek in South Dakota, 2014, the year before the bird flu wave of 2015. (Photo by Tom Koerner courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Environment News Service (ENS) © 2023 All Rights Reserved.

9 diseases that keep epidemiologists up at night

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January 29, 20237:01 AM ET

SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED

Thinking about the next pandemic keeps lots of researchers busy.

Peter Zelei Images/Getty Images

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/01/29/1151039454/9-diseases-virus-epidemiologists-pandemic-potential-who

Just three years ago, on Jan. 30, 2020, the head of the World Health Organization made a landmark declaration: A “novel coronavirus” that had first been identified in China had spread to a degree where it was now a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).”

The virus now known as SARS-CoV-2 — which causes the disease COVID-19 — is still spreading. But for those who study infectious diseases, talking about possible next pandemics is a necessity.

Hidden viruses: how pandemics really begin

NPR is running a series on spillover viruses — that’s when animal pathogens jump into people. Researchers used to think spillovers were rare events. Now it is clear they happen all the time. That has changed how scientists look for new deadly viruses. To learn more, we traveled to Guatemala and Bangladesh, to Borneo and South Africa.

We have a quiz for you to test your spillover knowledge. But we’d also like you to quiz us. Send your questions about spillovers to goatsandsoda@npr.org with “spillovers” in the subject line. We’ll answer questions in a follow-up post when the series concludes in mid-February.


That’s why the World Health Organization keeps a list of viruses and bacteria with pandemic potential. Jill Weatherhead of Baylor College of Medicine says prioritizing diseases is generally based on two factors: their ability to spread and the ability of humans to treat them.

The list helps guide scientists, governments and organizations in investing energy and funds to study the pathogens most likely to cause the greatest devastation to humans. The WHO develops “blueprints” with strategic goals and research priorities for each disease on the list.

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QUIZ: Test your knowledge of spillover viruses, starting with … what are they?

Here are the diseases on the current list. A revised list is expected in the coming months: In late 2022, the World Health Organization convened more than 300 scientists to assess and update the list.

Note: The infrastructure to detect diseases in different parts of the world varies, as does the fact that mild cases of an illness may not be known or reported. Fatality rates are based on the best available data.

Nipah virus

What animals carry it: fruit bats, including those called flying foxes, and domestic animals such as pigs, horses, cats and dogs

How it spreads: Nipah virus can be transmitted to humans from animals or contaminated foods. It can also be transmitted directly from human to human.

Its toll: 40% to 75% fatality rate. The virus can also cause encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.

Medical toolbox: There is no vaccine available for either people or animals. Monoclonal antibody therapies are in development.

Pandemic potential: Outbreaks occur almost every year in parts of Asia, but there are known ways to prevent spread of the virus. Prevention efforts include avoiding exposure to bats and sick animals, avoiding consumption of fruits that bats may have nibbled on and not drinking certain raw juices from fruits that bats feed on. The risk of international transmission can be lowered by washing those fruits and fruit products thoroughly and peeling them before eating.

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Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever

What animals carry it: ticks, livestock

How it spreads: Humans usually get the virus from contact with ticks or infected livestock. To get the virus from another person requires close contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person.

Its toll: 10% to 40% fatality rate. The disease is endemic, meaning it occurs regularly, in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia. The virus causes severe outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever, a condition that can damage the body’s organ systems and cardiovascular system and that often includes severe bleeding.

Medical toolbox: Although a vaccine is in use in Bulgaria, no research has been published on how well it works, and it’s not licensed anywhere else. Other vaccines are in development, and an antiviral drug called ribavirin appears to help treat infections.

Pandemic potential: It’s difficult to tell when an animal is infected and should be avoided, and the WHO says the ticks that carry the virus are numerous and widespread. The threat could be reduced by trying to avoid tick bites and wearing gloves and other protective clothing when around livestock.

Lassa fever

What animals carry it: rats and other rodents

How it spreads: The virus is endemic in parts of West Africa. Rats excrete the virus, and humans pick it up when exposed to the rodents’ urine and feces, either through direct contact or eating contaminated food. It can also spread between humans through direct contact with an infected person’s secretions (blood, urine, feces), through sexual contact and in medical settings via contaminated equipment.

Its toll: 1%, but up to 15% in severe hospitalized cases. It can be deadly for people and fetuses in the third trimester of pregnancy. Besides death, a common complication is deafness, which can be permanent.

Medical toolbox: There is no vaccine, but ribavirin seems to help treat infections.

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Pandemic potential: Because the primary method of transmission is exposure to a certain type of rat, potential for the spread of the disease is most likely limited to the countries where the rat lives.

Rift Valley fever

What animals carry it: mosquitoes. The insects can transmit the virus to both humans and their own offspring. Livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo and camels can also get infected.

How it spreads: It spreads to people through contact with blood, other body fluids or tissues of infected animals.

Its toll: Although the fatality level is less than 1% and the disease is mild for most people, about 8% to 10% of people infected develop severe symptoms, including eye lesions, encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever.

Medical toolbox: Although a vaccine has been developed, it is not yet licensed or available.

Pandemic potential: Rift Valley fever has spread from Africa to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Flooding seems to contribute to more Rift Valley fever because more virus-infected mosquitoes buzz about after heavy rainfalls. Rapid case detection, including prompt laboratory testing of people with symptoms, has limited recent outbreaks.

Zika

What animals carry it: mosquitoes

How it spreads: In addition to mosquito bites, the virus can spread from a pregnant person to a fetus. The disease can also be transmitted through sex and probably through blood transfusions.

Its toll: It’s rarely fatal, but Zika can cause severe brain defects in fetuses, including microcephaly. It has also been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth defects.

Medical toolbox: No treatment or vaccine

Pandemic potential: So far, it’s largely limited to areas where Zika-carrying mosquitoes live.

Ebola and Marburg virus disease

What animals carry them: Bats and nonhuman primates are believed to carry the viruses, from the filovirus family, that cause these hemorrhagic fevers.

How they spread: Both viruses are believed to spread in the same way. After the initial spillover from an animal, humans spread the viruses to other humans through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of a person who is symptomatic or who has died from the disease. The viruses can also spread through objects or surfaces contaminated with bodily fluids and through semen from people who have recovered from the disease.

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Their toll: The average fatality rate is about 50%, though rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

Medical toolbox: Vaccines have been used for Ebola in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Monoclonal antibodies approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2020 can also help with treatment of Ebola. Vaccines for Marburg virus are in development.

Pandemic potential: These viruses can spread quickly in health care settings, especially when proper sterilization isn’t used. However, the disease spreads only when a person is symptomatic, making it easier to control.

MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome)

What animals carry it: camels

How it spreads: After the initial spillover event from camels to humans, this coronavirus can spread from person to person through close contact with an infected person.

Its toll: The reported fatality rate, according to the WHO, is 35%.

Medical toolbox: Several vaccines are in development, but none has been approved.

Pandemic potential: 27 countries have reported infections since 2012. Unlike SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes MERS grows deep in the respiratory tract, making it much less likely to be transmitted through sneezing and coughing.

SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)

What animals carry it: Palm civets were largely blamed for the 2003 outbreak. Bats and possibly other wildlife also carry it.

How it spreads: After the initial spillover event from animal to human, SARS can spread from person to person through close contact with an infected person. It’s believed to usually spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes and sometimes through surfaces touched by infectious people.

Its toll: less than a 1% fatality rate

Medical toolbox: No treatment or vaccine has been approved.

Pandemic potential: Unlike SARS-CoV-2, which can spread before people know they’re infectious, this SARS virus is usually spread only by those with known symptoms, making it much easier to contain through public health measures such as quarantining. The 2003 outbreak was contained after causing about 8,000 cases and 700 deaths in 29 countries.

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Disease X

The WHO says it does not rank diseases in any order of potential threat, but it acknowledges the possibility that an as-yet-unknown disease could cause a serious pandemic.

In her work with bat viruses, for example, Raina Plowright of Cornell University says that even in the small proportion of bat species that have been studied, the animals carry thousands of viruses, “and we have no clue how many present risk,” she says. “We don’t have the technology to take a sequence and say with certainty whether it can infect humans or can transmit from human to human. We’re blind, really.”

Not to mention that variants pose threats, she says. “Just the tiniest genetic change can have a profound effect. What if we had [a pathogen] with a 50% fatality rate that transmitted efficiently?”


Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a freelance health journalist in Minneapolis. She has written about COVID-19 for many publications, including The New York Times, Kaiser Health News, Medscape and The Washington Post

We can’t afford to offset our aviation emissions

https://www.theverge.com/2023/1/31/23579475/aviation-emissions-cost-carbon-offsets-climate-change 

It could take $1 trillion to try to counteract emissions from growing aviation demand.

By JUSTINE CALMA / @justcalma

Jan 31, 2023, 3:01 PM PST|8 Comments / 8 New

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A plane flying across a blue sky with contrails behind it.
Passenger aircraft as seen flying over the Netherlands.

With business continuing as usual, climate pollution from aviation could nearly triple by 2050 as demand for air travel grows, according to a new study published yesterday in the journal Nature Sustainability. It would cost up to $1 trillion to try to remove enough of that pollution from the atmosphere to meet global climate goals — an untenable situation.

To put that enormous cost into context, the global airline industry only netted $26.4 billion in profits in 2019 before the covid pandemic curbed travel. And even if airlines can pay to remove all their emissions from the atmosphere, that’s still not guaranteed to slow climate change. While carbon offsets — paying to cancel out your climate pollution through green projects like planting trees — are popular, they’re wildly unreliable.

Climate pollution from aviation could nearly triple by 2050 as demand for air travel grows

A surefire way to cut down that pollution is to keep the aviation sector from expanding as rapidly as it did for years before the covid pandemic. Keeping growth in air travel demand nearly flat through 2050 could avoid more than 60 percent of those business-as-usual emissions, according to the new study. Another 27 percent of emissions could be prevented through improved energy efficiency. And deeper cuts will require developing less-polluting fuels.

The authors of the new study mapped out ways for aviation to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, a point when the industry no longer pumps out more CO2 pollution than it can take out of the atmosphere. Back in 2021, the International Air Transport Association set a goal of reaching net-zero emissions globally by 2050. It’s a research-backed timeline that falls in line with global climate goals under the Paris agreement.

To be sure, even the most ambitious pathway to net zero — with demand for air travel nearly flatlining at just 1 percent growth each year — includes some carbon removal. After all, the aviation sector still has to compensate for other plane emissions outside of CO2 that contribute to global warming — for example, the thin lines of clouds that form in the wake of a plane, called contrails, that trap heat.

But slowing demand for flying cuts the need for carbon removal way down. And that’s really important since humans have so far been pretty lousy at taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. To date, that’s mostly done through tree planting — an attempt to harness the natural ability of forests to take in and store CO2. Investigation after investigation has found that the majority of these projects fail. Turns out, it’s really hard to maintain these forestry projects for the hundreds of years necessary to have an impact on climate change.

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There are new efforts to build out big CO2-sucking plants that can filter the greenhouse gas out of the air, but this technology is still prohibitively expensive and unproven at scaleElectric planes and hydrogen jets are in a similar conundrum; they won’t get off the ground in time to make the kind of pollution cuts that are needed now.

Some airlines are now prioritizing switching to sustainable aviation fuels after being called out for relying on risky carbon offset projects to make themselves look green. But sustainable aviation fuels, made from waste or crops, are still no silver bullet. Those crops take up a lot of space, potentially competing with food production and driving more deforestation. Global thirst for biofuels, if it rises along with demand for air travel, could use up an area about as big as 19 percent of the world’s cropland, according to the study.

In other words, there’s no quick techno-fix to aviation’s pollution problem. Climate-wise, flight is considered one of the hardest sectors to clean up. But for such a complex problem, there’s at least one straightforward solution: flying less. Just limiting demand to 1 percent growth each year instead of the 4 percent projected by the industry makes a huge difference, the new research shows.

And that task could fall squarely on “super emitters” — the 1 percent of the population that’s been found to generate half the world’s CO2 emissions from commercial aviation. Maybe they can cough up the $1 trillion it would cost to bet on carbon removal to erase the consequences of business as usual. But if the poor track record we’ve seen so far with carbon offsets is any indication, it’d be a big gamble.

Attempt to Retake Crimea Will Spark Global Nuclear War, Official Warns

Story by Isabel van Brugen • 9h ago

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Aglobal nuclear war will “immediately” break out should any attempt be made to return Crimea to Ukrainian control, the head of Sevastopol’s Civic Chamber said on Tuesday.

Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on March 20, 2014. Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014© FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

Alexander Formanchuk, the chairman of Crimea’s Civic Chamber, made the remarks in an interview with state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

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“Any attempt to seize Crimea and return it to Ukraine will immediately escalate into a thermonuclear global conflict. Russia will not forgive this,” he warned.

Formanchuk, who has led the chamber since May 2021, was responding to recent comments made by former CIA Director David Petraeus about the potential recapture of Crimea—the Black Sea peninsula that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Petraeus said he believes it’s an “open question” as to whether Ukraine will be able to retake Crimea.

“Here’s the scenario. If [Ukraine] can, in the spring/summer offensive this year sever the ground link that Russia has, the ground bridge, as it’s called, that Russia has established that goes from Russia proper down into Ukraine, and so they block that, then, Russia is dependent on the Kerch Strait Bridge to keep Crimea resupplied,” Petraeus said.

“If you could take that down again—or part of it, of course, was knocked down earlier—and then force it to rely on ferries, and then if you can start taking them out—now, these are very, very challenging actions and operations.”

Petraeus added: “If you can isolate Crimea fully and if you then have the precision munitions with greater range and can start picking off the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, the various air bases, the various sea ports, and all the rest of this, again, it is not inconceivable that you could sufficiently isolate it, and then at some point in time, either go in on the ground or have some kind of concession in the other direction.”

Related video: Croatian President: Crimea will ‘never again’ be part of Ukraine (Daily Mail)

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Formanchuk said the former CIA director’s outlined scenarios “are suicidal.”

Washington and Kyiv should remember how Russia reacted to the October 2022 attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge that links Crimea to Russia, he said. Kyiv didn’t claim responsibility for that attack, but Putin responded by launching a barrage of strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure for months.

“It was after that terrorist attack that high-precision strikes began on critical infrastructure facilities in Ukraine. Crimea is Russia’s untouchable territory, if they try to return it to Ukraine, then the United States will be responsible for unleashing a thermonuclear military conflict,” Formanchuk added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to take back Crimea, saying during a televised address on August 29, 2022, that Ukraine’s military had “kept the goal” of recapturing Crimea since it was annexed by Putin.

“This war, which began with Russia’s occupation of our Crimea, with an attempt to seize Donbas, must end precisely there—in the liberated Crimea, in the liberated cities of Donbas, with our troops reaching the state border of Ukraine,” Zelensky said at the time. “We have always kept this goal in mind. We do not forget about it.

Many fear however that retaking Crimea would be a red line for Russia and that Putin may use his country’s nuclear capabilities to defend the territory.

Newsweek has contacted the foreign ministries of Ukraine and Russia for comment.