DEAR READERS: More than 840 manatee deaths have been recorded between Jan. 1 and July 2 of this year by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Scientists believe the cases stem from algal blooms that block light from seagrass, killing the plant and depriving the manatees of a critical food source. Some of the animals have been rescued for rehabilitation and later release.
This is a tragic and avoidable loss of an extraordinary and endangered species -- one of the wonders of the natural world, distantly related to elephants. Manatees are frequently injured and killed by speed-boat collisions and fishing nets. Their plight is exacerbated by the climate crisis, which is warming waters and stimulating often-toxic algal blooms fed by chemical fertilizer runoff from lawns, gardens, golf courses and agricultural facilities.
Such algal blooms are a problem nationwide. The CDC has released the first round of nationally sourced data collected through its national reporting system, the One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System. The system collected data from 18 states, including Florida, from 2016 through 2018. Most of the harmful algal bloom reports were related to cyanobacteria, often called blue-green algae and often found in southwest Florida.
The participating states reported 421 harmful algal blooms, leading to 389 cases of human illness (no deaths reported). During that two-year period, algal blooms impacted 413 animals, killing 369 of them. The majority (89%) of the exposures involved fresh water, including a die-off of 300 birds at a lake in May 2018. Almost all illnesses occurred between May and September, and the most frequently affected animals were dogs, cattle and birds.
DEAR DR. FOX: I recently read your column discussing the use of insecticides for flea and tick control. I've used Bravecto twice, on two separate French bulldogs, and each had similar reactions -- loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting.
The most recent was my 9-month-old rescue puppy, who was only administered a half dose. She appears to have recovered fully, but was certainly out of sorts for a full day. The first time I used it was several years ago on our (then) 4-year-old Frenchie. He had an identical reaction, though the effects lingered longer, likely because he had had a full dose.
It's very difficult for laypeople to get past the marketing from drug companies. The throwaway line in many ads, "Discuss with your veterinarian," is not much use, and I appreciate your efforts to inform everyone. -- S.P., Toronto, Canada
DEAR S.P.: Thanks for adding further support for my publicized concerns about these anti-flea insecticides being so widely given to dogs and cats. My website (drfoxonehealth.com) includes a review of these risks and a list of safer ways to prevent problems with fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.
Concerns are already rising about the next pandemic possibly being spread by mosquitoes, like the Zika virus. Climate change and insect resistance to insecticides contribute to this possible public health crisis. Beyond that, the overuse of insecticides, especially on livestock and crops, has decimated beneficial aquatic and terrestrial insect species as well as amphibians, reptiles, birds and bats. These creatures were the best controllers of mosquitoes, sand and black flies.
Our ignorant, adversarial attitude toward other animals is our ultimate nemesis. Dysbiosis and dystopia go hand in hand, as every organic farmer and epidemiologist knows! Certainly these insecticides are convenient, as well as highly profitable for manufacturers and retailers, but this insanity must stop.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)