Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Blogging Failure

You might have noticed I don't blog as much here as I used to. What I DO do is post a bit on our Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic Facebook page.

I'm not retiring this blog. I really do plan to write more here at some point. But you know what they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Veterinarians and Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

You have probably heard in the news lately (unless you're Amish, or live off grid in Alaska) that there is a bit of an infectious disease problem in West Africa. And that this disease made an appearance in Dallas, Texas a couple of days ago in the person of one Thomas Eric Duncan.

What you might not have heard is that veterinarians know, or certainly should know, a great deal about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) since this is yet another deadly zoonotic disease whose origins are probably in a number of African bat species.

Under the concept of One Health, it is the responsibility of both physicians and veterinarians to be cognizant of and preferably conversant in any diseases which can be spread from animals to humans or vice versa. It is also, or should be, our responsibility to reach out to clients in order to educate them about these diseases, particularly when they might affect our own community.

So here are some links to sound, factual scientific information about this disease. If you want the panicky rumor mill type stuff, you'll need to go to Alex Jones' horrifyingly irresponsible website or elsewhere on the intertubes.

CDC's Ebola page is pretty much the sine qua non of EVD resources.

WHO's web page is also good, but is more geared toward international public health considerations and not personal health.

Texas Department of State Health Services has limited information pertaining to this particular case, apparently in keeping with their beliefs in small government. This doesn't seem like it serves the interests of Texans very well, just between you and me.

The New York Times has an excellent Ebola page

NBC news has gathered all their Ebola coverage together in one place to make things easier.

As far as what I am doing or not doing, and thinking or not thinking about this new public health threat in the US - I have spent some time mulling over what steps I can personally take to ensure that, should EVD appear in SoCal, I am part of the solution and not part of the problem. So I am reading up on appropriate hygiene and how one applies that to the home, the workplace, and going out in public places. We might need to change our behavior and habits if it comes to that. I want to be ready.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why We Are Phasing Out Use of "Antibacterial" Handsoaps

Here at Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic we have always used (and will continue to use) surgical scrub soap containing chlorhexidine for use on patients and prior to gloving up for surgery. But our everyday handsoap for use at sinks throughout the hospital is another matter.

Some years back I made the decision to switch to "antibacterial" handsoap containing triclosan because, well everyone was doing so and it seemed to make sense. But the devil is in the details. In the ensuing years there have been disturbing reports of environmental persistence by this chemical (yeah, we REALLY need another DDT, don't we?), and more frighteningly, its negative effects on soil and water microbes.

Now there are plenty of microbes we want to have a negative effect on: specifically the potential pathogens found on dirty hands. But the last thing I'd ever want to see is for those effects to spread beyond my hands and into our waterways and outdoor ecosystems. And that is exactly what is happening.

In 2011 Tufts University produced a white paper evaluating triclosan. They expressed concerns about bioaccumulation in fatty tissues of animals including humans, contributions to antibiotic resistance, and environmental effects.

I decided, based on these concerns, that it would be wise to end our use of products containing triclosan wherever possible. So we've been gradually using up the jug of Dial Antibacterial Handsoap we had on hand (I felt this was preferable to sending it en masse to a landfill - dilution is the solution to pollution in this case) - and I am happy to report that we are now down to the final 8 ounces or so in the final dispenser.

Research studies have shown that vigorous handwashing with ordinary soap removes just as many bacteria as soaps containing triclosan, with far less environmental impact. It's all about mechanical removal, it turns out, and not about "sterilization" of hands (which is physically impossible anyway).

So I'm about to do a little happy dance as the last of that nasty orange stuff goes away. I now use a handsoap with no dyes, though it does have some fragrance. And as soon as I can find a jug of fragrance and dye-free handsoap, I will phase that in. I believe I spotted one at Whole Paycheck, but avoiding those pesky unintended consequences is well worth the cost.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Updated Information on the Rabid Skunk in Long Beach

We just got this press release from the Long Beach Health Department. I am relieved that it was NOT the skunk variant, which would have been an ominous development with serious public health implications, particularly for our local feral cat population.

July 3, 2014
Contact: Mitchell Kushner, MD, City Health Officer, 562.570.4047
For immediate release
First rabid skunk to test positive in Los Angeles County
since 1979 confirmed to be rabies variant carried by bats

The California Department of Public Health confirmed today that the rabid skunk found last week in Long Beach was infected with a rabies virus variant from the Mexican-free-tailed bat. While bats in the area have tested positive for rabies in past years, this was the first confirmed case of rabies in a skunk in Los Angeles County since 1979. Mexican-free-tailed bats are very common in Southern California, and are the species of bats that most commonly carry rabies in the state.
Bat-to-mammal transmission is not uncommon, and the rabid skunk likely had an encounter with a bat infected with rabies. “This is the time of year that we might see more bat rabies, and potentially spillover to terrestrial mammals,” said City Health Officer Dr. Mitchell Kushner. “We do not anticipate that this spillover event is anything more than an isolated incident.”
The testing was important to determine that a skunk variant of rabies, which is only noted in Northern California, has not be re-introduced to Southern California where it has not been seen since 1979.
Continued vigilance in testing wildlife that is ill or exhibiting unusual behavior is still recommended. Anyone noticing obviously ill wildlife or unusual symptoms by animals should contact Animal Care Services at 562-570-7387. The Health Department and staff from Animal Care Services remind residents that they should not try to capture or trap wildlife, and that all domestic pets should receive their scheduled rabies vaccine to prevent pets and humans from getting rabies from other animals.
For more information on rabies, call Long Beach Animal Care Services at 562-570-7387.
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