Dangers Of The Natural World Abound In SB County

Nature is making life rough for humans and both domesticated and farm animals in many spots around San Bernardino County.
Earlier this month there was an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in Apple Valley, Phelan, Pinon Hills and Baldy Mesa.
The disease was noted among some school students, including ones at Rancho Verde Elementary School and the Academy for Academic Excellence, both in Apple Valley. Apple Valley Unified School District and Snowline Joint Unified School District officials acknowledged that several students had come down with the disease, which generally initiates with cold or flu-like symptoms. After a fever and sore throat manifests, sufferers sometimes experience a loss of appetite, followed one to two days later by painful mouth sores. Thereafter or simultaneously a skin rash will often spread to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Hand, foot and mouth disease typically affects infants and children under the age of six, but can occur in older children. Highly contagious during the first week of illness, it spreads through close contact. On occasion, those who have been infected can remain contagious for days or weeks after symptoms recede or disappear entirely. Because it is not extremely common or anticipated, hand, foot and mouth disease is not easily recognized.
Generally, there are no lingering aftereffects. Nevertheless, in rare cases viral or “aseptic” meningitis can occur with hand, foot, and mouth disease, causing fever, headache, stiff neck, or back pain that may require the infected person to be hospitalized for a few days. A further outgrowth that is rarer still is encephalitis, i.e., inflammation of the brain or, rare in the extreme, a polio-like paralysis. In some cases, those afflicted can sustain fingernail and toenail loss, although in virtually every case the nails grew back without need of medical treatment.
There is no vaccine or treatment currently available for hand, foot and mouth disease. To ward the condition off, hygiene is recommended and when an outbreak occurs, it is prudent to thoroughly clean and sterilize all items that have come into contact with those afflicted.
Newcastle disease, which resulted in the extermination of millions of chickens in San Bernardino County in the 1970s, has reappeared in the region, a harbinger of a potential repeat of what occurred more than four decades ago.
Newcastle disease is a contagious viral bird disease affecting many domestic and wild avian species. While it is transmissible to humans, it manifests in relatively mild forms of conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, and influenza-like symptoms, seeming to pose no other significant hazard to human health.
Though it was first identified in Java, Indonesia, in 1926, and in 1927, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, whence its name, Newcastle is believed to have been prevalent as earlier, as in 1898 when a disease wiped out all the domestic fowl in northwest Scotland. Newcastle’s effects are most notable in domestic poultry due to their high susceptibility and the potential for widespread infestation on the poultry industry.
Newcastle typically results in swelling around a bird’s eyes, a purplish swelling of the wattle and comb, a large amount of fluid coming from the beak and nasal areas, a twisting of the neck and head, loss of appetite, green diarrhea, and sudden death.
No treatment for Newcastle exists, but the use of prophylactic vaccines and sanitization measures can reduce the likelihood of outbreaks. Transmission occurs by exposure to fecal and other excretions from infected birds, contact with contaminated food and water, as well as through human interaction as when a person moves infected birds, equipment or feed or by coming into contact with unaffected birds while wearing the same clothing or shoes worn when that person had contact with infected areas.
In seeking to limit the spread of Newcastle, public health officials have engaged in what are perceived to be ruthless and often cruel means. Flocks of birds, such as egg producing hens in an area where Newcastle has been detected, even if no birds on that particular farm have been confirmed to have the virus, are uniformly slaughtered. This will be effectuated by loading thousands of chickens into an enclosed garbage truck. A hose is then run from the truck’s exhaust pipe into an aperture so the carbon monoxide can be introduced into the enclosure containing the chickens. Those chickens not crushed to death by the weight of the chickens above them succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The most recent spate of Newcastle was first detected in Southern California in May, with 150 hosting birds that tested positive for Newcastle. Some 34,000 birds have been euthanized since the outbreak was first spotted. Locally, the outbreak is confined to 25 properties at the west end of San Bernardino County and one property on the extreme east side Los Angeles County, all situated in the Chino, Ontario, Montclair, and Pomona area between Mission Avenue, the Pomona Freeway, Garey Avenue and Mountain Avenue. At press time, the outbreak had confined itself to scattered backyards and frontyards in those areas featuring chickens and some peacocks. No commercial farms, such as ones where chickens are kept for egg production had been impacted, though some 800 properties where birds are known to be present are under quarantine, meaning the birds there are not permitted to leave the confines of the property.
Agriculture officials were recently in Chino to provide informational briefings to chicken ranch owners and farmers. Ranchers have been told that if the number of birds infected reaches what agricultural and public health authorities deem a critical tipping point, blanket euthanizations of commercial flocks where birds have yet to test positive for the virus will be ordered to arrest the spread of the disease, which will occur extremely rapidly.
Under both California and federal law, agricultural officials have the authority to inspect property upon which fowl are located, and federal and state law authorizes the arrest of any bird owners who do not comply with a euthanization order.
Meanwhile, in Morongo Valley, coyotes have been attacking domestic pets.
On occasion, the coyotes have come out of the desert right up to homes and descended upon dogs and cats. Anecdotal evidence is that a number of dogs are known to have been killed by coyotes. In other cases, dogs have disappeared, with indications but no hard proof that they fell victim to coyotes. There has been an uptick in the number of family pets in the area brought to veterinarians for treatment of coyote bites, which typically are deep puncture wounds which carry with them the hazard of bacteriological infection.
California Fish and Wildlife rangers have confirmed that weather conditions and meteorological conditions have driven more and more coyotes out of their usually remote haunts and into areas inhabited by humans such as Yucca Valley, Pioneertown, Wonder Valley, Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms and Johnson Valley. Unofficially, the rangers have authorized desert residents to shoot the coyotes if they encounter them.
According to statistics kept by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Mojave Desert is rife with coyotes, with anywhere from one to four living on a square mile of land, depending how close to civilization the property is. In general, coyotes steer clear of humans, but if the numbers of their natural prey diminish or if drought dries up their water sources, they will move into areas habited by people and make a meal out of household pets or try to find a ready source of water.
At the periphery of San Bernardino County, this year, in Riverside and in Easvale, a 74-year-old woman and a 50-year-old Eastvale man contracted West Nile Virus as a consequence of encounters with mosquitoes carrying the diseases. Both victims required hospitalization to stabilize their conditions. Though rarely life threatening, West Nile can devolve into a serious condition, especially among the young, elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It is spread to humans by mosquitoes which have themselves contracted it from contact with dead birds carrying the pathogen.
In roughly 75 percent of West Nile fever infections people suffer no or imperceptible symptoms. About 20 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito develop a fever, headache, vomiting, or a rash. In less than 1 percent of humans, encephalitis or meningitis – a much more dangerous swelling of the brain – sets in, accompanied by neck stiffness, confusion, or seizures. Recovery may take weeks to months. There is a ten percent risk of death for those seriously infected.
-Mark Gutglueck

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