Monday, September 05, 2005

Tularemia Outbreak in Russia – Might Have Been Natural


A recent outbreak –over 400 cases of Tularemia – occurred in Russia during July and August.


The sheer number of cases – as compared to prior years – seemed alarming ; as did the proximity of the cases to Russian biowarfare research
facilities. (There were even cases in Sverdlosk – site of an Anthrax accident many years ago. )


It is well to be suspicious of coincidence ; but equally important to make sure all facts are in hand before drawing conclusions.


In researching Tularemia “episodes” a few days ago, I came upon an outbreak in Sweden in 2003 that involved well over 500 cases, and that took place in areas where Tularemia was not endemic. ( It was, in fact, quite rare in the affected area.)


No absolute conclusions were reached about the Swedish outbreak,but certain facts did emerge: a higher than normal rabbit population ,exposure of victims to rabbits, and higher-than-normal populations of mosquitos and biting insects in the affected areas.


I am advised some of these factors – especially high mosquito numbers-are present in the present Russian outbreak ,and that Russian authorities are reasonably certain nothing untoward has occurred.


That comes as a tremendous relief , because the whole world worries about the possibility of terrorists of any stripe getting their hands on such insidious and deadly materials.


Meanwhile, I return to my watch : an old herd bull, who keeps an eye open for tell-tale movement in the tall grasses of our world ; and who hopes others will take up or continue their own vigils .


It is better to snort at the approach of a badger , than to become the dinner of a hungry wolfpack – no matter how much a fool you may be thought to be.

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