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International Society for Infectious Diseases <http://www.isid.org>

Date: Mon 2 Jun 2012
Source: Newsnet5.com [edited]

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is waiting for an official report on what killed more than 50 geese and ducks on the campus of the Ohio Veterans Home last Friday [29 Jun 2012].

The discovery of the dead birds has left police officer AJ Alt baffled. He found the dead birds; first taking notice of how weak and limp they appeared. "They all couldn't quite stand up around 9:30 that night. I saw a bunch of dead geese and ducks were just laying around some were in the pond some up on the banks," he said.

Alt said he contacted Erie County's game warden and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "They collected some took some water samples, really had no answer to what was causing it," he said.

According to Alt, those who live nearby are disappointed by the news.
He said a lot of the residents at the Ohio Veterans Home feed the geese and ducks quite often.

"This is not an unusual event, it occurs every year about this time, actually August is the origin of it," explained the founder of Back to the Wild, Mona Rutger.

Rutger, who helps bring up to 2500 sick and injured animals from horrible tragedies each year, was only able to save one bird from the Ohio Veterans Home. She said she can only make an educated guess, but, believes a bacterium [that causes] botulism may be growing in the warmth of the low water levels. "The vegetation begins decaying and produces these spores that just keep multiplying, it's just a natural toxin," she explained.

According to Rutger, shore water birds, gulls, and wading birds, like herons, egrets, ducks, and geese ingest the toxins when they eat. She added humans may be unknowingly adding to the problem by feeding the waterfowl. "It's actually illegal to dump tons of corn and feeding grain out for waterfowl, especially near the edges of water because the corn ferments and botulism quickly sets up," Rutger warned.
"Please don't feed wildlife -- they have everything they need out there in the wild and they're filling up on corn and they're not getting the varied things they need in their diet to have good nutritional health."

Rutger said the bacteria are usually found around shoreline edges where toxin is at maximum. "The birds are coming in with paralyzed legs, and if they're in the [2nd stage of it, their wings can't move and in the final stage, called limber neck or rubber neck], birds can't hold their own head up," she said.

While botulism is definitely a deadly [disease] in humans, there are different types. "The ones that affect wildlife are different from the types of botulism that affect humans. It's always good to take a lot of sanitary precautions if you're handling wildlife, but it can't transfer to humans. We'd probably have to ingest the animal, eat it, to get it from them," Rutger explained. "Whatever eats the animal that has eaten that toxin they also get the toxin."

Ultimately, Rutger said the birds will die if they are not rescued in time. She said they flush the toxins from the birds' systems with Pedialyte [oral electrolyte solution] and give them a clean diet to nurse them back to life if they're found or brought in.

Wildlife officials do not have a definitive cause for the bird deaths, but Rutger said if you encounter dead birds do not touch them -- instead contact wildlife authorities.

[byline: Shay Harris]

communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap alerts

[Avian botulism is a paralytic disease caused by ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacterium _Clostridium botulinum_. These bacteria are widespread in soil and require warm temperatures, a protein source, and an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment in order to become active and produce toxin. Decomposing vegetation and invertebrates combined with warm temperatures can provide ideal conditions for the botulism bacteria to activate and produce toxin. There are several types of toxin produced by strains of these bacteria; birds are most commonly affected by type C and to a lesser extent type E. Outbreaks of botulism in wild aquatic birds are a natural phenomenon in North America.

A map of the affected area can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/2Ikd>. - Mod.PMB]

[see also:
Botulism, avian - USA (02): (HI) 20120624.1178706 Botulism, avian - USA: (CA) 20120430.1117985 Botulism, avian - New Zealand: (CB) susp 20120213.1040575
Botulism, avian - USA: (CO) 20110914.2797 2010
Botulism, avian - USA (05): (FL) susp. 20100817.2848 Undiagnosed die-off, avian - USA (08): (CA) botulism susp.
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