health

Emergent Disease in Connecticut Deer Population Discovered

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) discovered an emergent disease in deer population in Connecticut.

female whitetail deer in Woodbridge, CT
Photo: Miguel Rangel Jr

In October of 2017 DEEP officials detected an unusual die-off of White Tail deer in central Connecticut. DEEP submitted carcasses to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) to establish possible causes of death. Necropsies were performed and tissues from the deer were analyzed by pathologists at the UConn laboratory. Anatomic changes observed in these tissues alerted pathologists to a disease never before recognized in Connecticut, “Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease of deer” (EHD). Samples were referred to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia where the presence of EHD virus (EHDV) was established.

EHDV causes a hemorrhagic disease in deer that is transmitted by midges, insects of the Culicoides spp. These insects also transmit the virus causing Bluetongue disease in domestic ruminants (goats, sheep and cattle). Bluetongue has not been found in Connecticut. There is a sustained expansion of these diseases in the United States linked to the geographical expansion of the transmitting vectors, in this case to northern latitudes.

DEEP and CVMDL have joined efforts over the years on discovering, detecting and reporting diseases affecting wildlife that, given environmental and ecological conditions, may spill over into livestock and human populations in the state of Connecticut.

This particular common effort, detecting EHDV in Connecticut, has initiated further studies at CVMDL to identify which species of Culicoides are responsible for transmission of the virus here in Connecticut. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in New Haven is supporting this effort by providing CVMDL with Culicoides insects trapped across the State of Connecticut.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn CAHNR, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

Article written by CVMDL

Spend Family Time Outdoors Exploring Nature

person walking on a bridge with colorful fall leaves around them
As the holiday season quickly approaches, time with family and friends is important to many of us. In honor of this past National Take a Hike Day (it was November 17th), try getting in your quality time with some fresh air this weekend! Take advantage of a local trail or path to get the blood flowing after a big meal. Your friends and family with thank you for burning off the extra calories!
 
This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.

Agriculture and Asbestos Safety

asbestos danger signWhile the April 2019 Final Rule established by the EPA was a large leap into the protection of U.S. citizens from asbestos, it has not completely annihilated the threat. The Final Rule, put simply, was created to protect the public from uses of asbestos that are “no longer on the market and are not covered under any other laws or regulations.” It added a few more asbestos banned products to the list as well as prohibited some other new uses of asbestos. 

In light of these relatively new changes that have occurred over the past few decades, farmers and agricultural workers may be wondering what these changes have to do with them; even more concerning could be the lack of knowledge throughout the public sphere of the nature of asbestos, what it does, and why there have been seven different regulations created or amended around the mineral since 1973.

Here are some questions and answers to consider:

What Does Asbestos Have to Do With Agriculture?

Individuals must first have a foundation of knowledge on what asbestos actually is. In essence, asbestos is a fibrous mineral that occurs in soil and rock. When mined and used properly, it acts as what is known to be the “miracle mineral” because of its resistance to heat and electricity, and its sound proofing abilities. It has been mined all over the world and was widely used in the late 20th century in many commercial and consumer products, including makeup and construction materials. 

Agricultural materials and machinery that may be impacted include:

  • Brakes, brake pads, brake linings
  • Insulation
  • Gaskets, valves, seals, clutches, engine parts
  • Other mechanical components that are submitted to high heat and friction
  • Barn/storage buildings (roof, shingles, walls, flooring)

This means that almost all agricultural workers could be exposed to asbestos, such as:

  • Dairy Farmers
  • Poultry Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Farmhands
  • Sharecroppers
  • Sheep, goat and cattle, vegetable, and market farmers
  • Agricultural equipment mechanics and operators

How Asbestos Impacts the Lives of Workers

While asbestos may be a “miracle mineral,” it is not so miraculous to a person’s health. Asbestos fibers can become airborne easily. This occurs when submitted to high heat and friction, cracks in the foundational aspects of buildings, and with any type of wear to asbestos based products. Once released, the risk of inhalation from workers is high, exposing the lungs and other internal organs.

As the mineral enters the respiratory system, it clings to the lining of the victim’s lungs, and embeds itself. Once embedded, it cannot be removed because the particles are invisible to the naked eye and the immune system cannot break them down. Over time (sometimes decades), the lungs will become inflamed and begin to scar. Once that occurs, the individual could contract a rare form of lung cancer that is only known among those exposed to asbestos, called mesothelioma. Like many types of cancers, there are various forms but all have a poor prognosis, making treatment extremely difficult.

Because of these health hazards, agricultural workers should be extremely cautious with their products, machinery and buildings. Be weary of cracks in the walls and linings of barns, when replacing brakes and when handling insulation of any kind.

Handling Asbestos Based Products

Workers should not handle the removal of asbestos on their own. In fact, not only does the U.S. government have various rules and regulations on how to handle asbestos, but many states have even stricter guidelines to prevent unneeded exposure. Be aware of the procedures set in place to handle asbestos, because otherwise, workers and loved ones could become easily exposed, putting their health at risk.

General guidelines to follow when handling asbestos:

Receive an asbestos inspection. Before any renovation projects take place, hire an inspector to determine if asbestos is present. Without the inspection, workers may not know whether they are exposed to the fibers.

Locate an asbestos abatement contractor. Because of the strict laws both nationally and state-wide, it may be wise to hire a contractor that has been educated on them. They will know how to handle the asbestos, where to store it, how to extract it and dispose of it.

Though asbestos is common among many products, it has dwindled in usage. Many companies today are either cutting back on its inclusion in their products, or they have completely eliminated it. No matter the concern, if an agricultural worker has been exposed to asbestos, they should see a physician immediately to address proper treatment and future actions.  

Article submitted by the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center

Growing Food with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and UConn Extension have been collaborating thanks to a U.S.D.A. Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program to enhance agricultural production, food security, and health of tribal community members.

UConn Extension Growing Food With the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

#AskUConnExtension #UConnImpact

Attend the CT Ag Wellness Summit

Ag Wellness Save the Date postcardStress has many causes and is a serious problem for those involved in agriculture. Unfortunately many folks try to deal with this quietly, showing a stiff upper lip, and by themselves – not the healthiest route to take. Join us in learning more about how to identify stressors,  understanding ways to help yourself, and equally important, how to identify signs so you may be able to help your friends and colleagues.

This FREE one day “CT Ag Wellness Summit: Helping You to Help Others” is for farmers, producers, and ag service providers. Download the flyer and registration information. This important summit is a collaboration between the UConn Dept. of Extension and Dept. of Plant Science & LA, CT Department of Agriculture, CT Farm Bureau, Farm Credit East, CT Veterinary Medical Association, Tufts Veterinary Medical Center, CT NOFA, USDA-Risk Management Agency and CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services.

Date:     Thursday, December 5, 2019

Time:    8:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where: Maneeley’s Conference Center, South Windsor

Cost:     FREE

Information About EEE from CVMDL at UConn

mosquito biting a person
2003
CDC/James Gathany
Photographer: James Gathany
This is an Ochlerotatus triseriatus mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human hand.
Also known as Aedes triseriatus, and commonly known as the ”treehole mosquito”, this species is a known West Nile Virus vector.
Photo by James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. Researchers and veterinarians UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.

Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.

EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector. Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.

With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.

Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

 

Reference

LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf

UConn Extension is Growing Food and Health with the Mashantucket Tribe

“The mission statement of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) states they will ‘…establish a social, cultural and economic foundation that can never be undermined or destroyed…,’” says Tribal Councilor Daniel Menihan, Jr. MPTN was facing challenges growing their fruits and vegetables at a scale to meet the tribe’s needs on their land in Ledyard, and some members were struggling with diabetes.

UConn has enjoyed a long history of engagement with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal community. Many members have graduated from UConn and served on the UConn Foundation Board, among others. Despite the fact that there is an Extension office only 10 miles from the reservation, MPTN has rarely participated in any educational outreach or training offered by UConn Extension.

UConn Extension received the four-year Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) grant from USDA-NIFA with the goal of having the tribe share their ideas for growing food and health, and help them learn about the Extension resources that are available. As a result of the grant, the relationship between MPTN and UConn is strengthening, and there is growth in agricultural production, food security, and health for the tribal people.

heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes grown by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Photo: Noah Cudd

“MPTN is still learning, but they are now able to grow their own food, in what looks like a commercial setting,” states Shuresh Ghimire, PhD, Vegetable Crops Extension educator and principal investigator on the grant. “They have high tunnels, a rototiller, a plastic mulch layer, and cold storage, which are common tools for a commercial farm.”

Extension provides expertise through one-on-one consultation, and classroom and hands-on training on-site in a collaborative setting. Educational outreach addresses the following critical areas identified by the MPTN Council:

  1. Improve food security
  2. Improve economic viability
  3. Improve youth engagement and communications
  4. Improve nutrition and diabetes awareness through collaborative education

An Extension program involving several specialists in fruit and vegetable production, farm business management, marketing, 4-H youth development, health and nutrition, communications, evaluation and assessment is working with the MPTN on their goals. Tribal members are participating in other Extension programs, beyond the scope of the grant. A 4-H club is being established at MPTN to increase opportunities for youth.

“Once this grant came, we started working with UConn Extension Educators. There has been a substantial gain in the knowledge and skills regarding growing food, writing a business plan, nutrition, and health,” says Jeremy Whipple, a MPTN member.

Growing with MPTN

Extension provides education for MPTN in state-of-the-art sustainable vegetable and fruit production techniques, and through

people in the greenhouse at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
UConn Extension educators work with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in a high tunnel. Photo: Shuresh Ghimire

collaboration with MPTN, is melded with traditional and historical tribal farming methods. This provides MPTN with a means to continue the richness of their history while moving into modern sustainable farming economically.

Tribal youth are included in all aspects of the agricultural venture with the tribe’s expectation that several youth will develop major roles in the business venture. Two tribal youth are being paid by the grant to work in vegetable production at MPTN.

“Learning how to grow tomatoes, including pest management, is one of the many things I enjoy working with on this grant” Ernest Pompey, one of the tribal youths working on this grant says. “I am excited to share what I learned about growing and eating healthy food to other youth in my community.”

“The tribe also established a community garden where they bring other youth from the community to teach them about growing. The knowledge is expanding within their own community, and they are teaching each other now,” Shuresh says.

making the three sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket tribe
Extension educators make the Three Sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

UConn Extension’s nutrition team is working with the tribal community health providers to deliver educational programming in healthy eating and diabetes prevention using classroom education, and hands-on learning in the selection and preparing of healthy food, and exercise through gardening. The goal is to reduce the risk and incidence of diabetes in the tribal community.

“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) utilizes a hands-on approach to nutrition education, combining nutrition knowledge with enhancement of skills to apply this knowledge to prepare healthy foods that are convenient, affordable and culturally appropriate,” says Mike Puglisi PhD, RD, state EFNEP director. “Erica Benvenuti, New London County nutrition educator, taught children in the MPTN High 5 Program the importance of food safety and increasing vegetable intake, and enhanced learning through getting the children involved in preparation of a traditional recipe prepared by the MPTN, the Three Sisters Rice recipe.”

The grant is starting its third year, and another Extension educator is working with tribal youth and adults in developing a business plan for the agricultural venture to increase their success rate. Youth and adults are also learning about their agricultural history and how it can successfully be integrated into today’s modern sustainable agriculture by combining classes with in-field learning experience.

“Ultimately, after the grant ends, MPTN’s farm will operate as a commercial vegetable farm would in terms of production and reaching out to Extension when they do need help. They will be independent, and continue growing their operation to support the goals of the tribal nation,” Shuresh states.

Article by Stacey Stearns and Shuresh Ghimire

Washing Raw Poultry: Food Safety Choices

washing hands in the kitchenA study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that individuals are putting themselves at risk of illness when they wash or rinse raw poultry.
“Cooking and mealtime is a special occasion for all of us as we come together with our families and friends,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “However, the public health implications of these findings should be of concern to everyone. Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning after washing poultry, this study shows that bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces and foods. The best practice is not to wash poultry.”
The results of the observational study showed how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized. The USDA is recommending three easy options to help prevent illness when preparing poultry, or meat, in your home.
1. Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
  • Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink.
  • 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.
2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
  • Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31 percent still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce.
  • This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
  • Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer.
  • Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. Wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then scrub your hands for 20 seconds.
3. Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.
  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F.
  • Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F.
  • Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.
  • Washing, rinsing, or brining meat and poultry in salt water, vinegar or lemon juice does not destroy bacteria. If there is anything on your raw poultry that you want to remove, pat the area with a damp paper towel and immediately wash your hands.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” said Administrator Carmen Rottenberg of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
More information about this study is available in an executive summary.
Have questions? Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-HOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). Live food safety experts are available Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Expert advice is also available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.

UConn CVMDL Tests Ticks for Disease-Causing Agents

tick testing at UConn
Photo: UConn Communications

Pet owners, livestock owners, and outdoor enthusiasts statewide need to maintain vigilance against ticks because as the fall season approaches will see an increase in their activity. UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology & Veterinary Science in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontline of tick testing to inform submitters of the risks associated with that tick. 

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, such as long grass and the leaf litter, and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting the agent that causes Lyme disease (the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi), it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

“Our lab offers tick identification services, in addition to many other services,” says Dr. Joan Smyth, Director of CVMDL. Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks, and to monitor for the spread of ticks that may have been recently introduced to our area, for example the long-horned tick. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately. CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within three to five business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.

Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl@uconn.edu or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.