Preparing for Hurricanes

Display of tax-free hurricane supplies outside a Virginia Home Depot (C) Hillary Craddock, all rights reserved

Display of tax-free hurricane supplies outside a Virginia Home Depot (C) Hillary Craddock, all rights reserved

Hurricane season officially starts for the Atlantic Coast June 1, and weather experts predict that the 2013 hurricane season will be more dangerous than normal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts as many as 20 total named storms, which could include seven to 11 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes. Accuweather also predicts a worse than normal hurricane season, with 16 tropical storms and eight hurricanes. They predict that four of those will be major hurricanes, and that three of those will make U.S. landfall.

So what can you do? It’s simpler than you may think – Get a kit. Make a plan. These two simple sentences have been used by everyone from the Red Cross and CDC to state and local health departments to encourage everyone to be prepared. Kits help ensure that you can either take shelter safely in your home or evacuate quickly and safely. A plan helps you care for yourself and your loved ones, even your pets and livestock. Continue reading

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Chronic Wasting Disease: A New Threat To Pennsylvania Deer, No Gun Required

Dinner. Unless he has CWD. Source, Wikimedia Commons, (C) USDA, Agricultural Research Service

This post was originally published at Mind the Science Gap on Nov. 29, 2012.

In early October a deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease for the first time in Pennsylvania. The positive result, which was found in a farm herd, resulted in the quarantine of all the deer on the property. Earlier this month, a deer escaped the quarantine and was running free in Pennsylvania. Two days ago that deer was shot and killed to prevent further disease transmission. That doe is still undergoing testing to determine if she was infected. As a result of all of these events unfolding, Pennsylvania has swiftly put plans into action. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is nearly impossible to eradicate once it establishes itself in a population, and in order to save PA’s deer herds, they needed to act fast.

Chronic Wasting Disease is endemic (established in wild populations) in Colorado and Wyoming. It has also been reported in wild herds in Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. CWD has been found in captive herds in other states, such as Iowa. States with no confirmed cases often have CWD task forces and policies to prevent introduction of the pathogen. For example, Washington recently began requiring hunters returning from CWD-endemic areas to undergo testing and processing to remove infectious material.

CWD is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), a group of disease that includes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow), Scrapie (a disease commonly found in sheep), Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (a neurodegenerative disease in humans), and Fatal familial insomnia (a disease where protein misfolding results in insomnia which progresses to delusions and eventually death). TSEs are all caused by a pathogenic organism known as a prion. Prions are rather unique in that they are not a virus or bacteria, but a protein with an abnormal structure. These prions can be infectious and transmissible (like CWD and Mad Cow) or inherited (like the fatal insomnia). Continue reading