*Editor’s Note:* Upon a request from Mrs. Bartell, I am posting the following synopsis of what transpired at a recent community meeting in Challis, Idaho. The meeting featured representatives of the Western Predator Control Association, who spoke about a tape worm, Echinococcus Granulosus, which causes hydatid disease, a very serious cystic disease that is difficult and expensive to treat and can be fatal to humans. There is reference in the below article about a woman who recently had hydatid cysts removed from her liver. While I have no reason to doubt the information provided by the woman’s husband at this meeting, efforts are underway as I write to pull together as much official information in this case as this is extremely serious. There is little need to spread panic among the citizenry, however, now that it appears that humans are beginning to contract this disease, serious steps will need to be taken. This is a sobering public safety issue.
Dear Mrs. Bartell,
Here belatedly is a brief synopsis you requested of the presentation given in Challis Idaho, by the Western Predator Control Association. I seem to always sit straighter in my chair when I know I am writing something for a retired school teacher, but please bear with my faults as I try my best to give you an overview of the meeting. On April 30th Dr. Clay Dethlefsen and Dr. Jack Ward , both representing the Montana based Western Predator Control Association (WPCA) gave the residents of Custer County an update of their research on the canine strain tapeworm Echincoccus granulosus and the resulting complications of Hydatid Disease that results from cysts that form around the parasite as it invades different organs of the ungulate or human body. The disease is dangerous to the host for many reasons, organ function can be impaired, cysts may burst causing lethal shock, and rapid growth of cysts can displace organs causing physical complications. The surgical remedies for removing the cysts are extremely dangerous and costly. Dr. Dethlefsen, President and Executive director of the Association, gave the majority of the presentation with Dr. Jack Ward the Medical Director of the Association being called upon to share his expertise from a long career in the field of Ungulate Pathology. From the opening of the meeting on, Dr. Dethlefsen made it very clear that the focus of their presentation was not about eliminating wolves but was totally focused on their research attempts to produce data that would give Counties in the western states a real handle on the extent of the Echincoccus granulosus infestation geographically, and the level of infestation of all species that may have contracted this parasite from the Canadian Gray Wolf. Several disease vectors were discussed, including canine fecal contamination, mechanical spread of the disease by birds such as magpies, ravens and eagles, and new to most of us, the spread of the disease by insects such as wasps. Dr. Dethlefsen indicated that fecal contamination of our water systems from spring time sheet flow (runoff) through canine fecal material would be a major health issue for us to consider. Health officials in both the countries of Turkey and Romania claim a large percentage of cases of Hydatid Disease infections in their human populations comes from contaminated water supplies. A four phase Eradication Program was discussed that was presented very simply as an effort that would be carried out at a county level until the threat of Hydatid Disease was removed. The plan seemed to have its origination from several countries where the effort was successful in controlling the disease. Those countries were Tasmania, Australia, and Turkey . The Plan followed this order:
1. Preparation Phase
2. Attack Phase
3. Consolidation Phase
4. Maintenance Phase
Dr. Dethlefsen repeated again that the focus of Western Predator Control was to produce Data that would enable Western States to accurately determine the degree of contamination of their ecosystems at the county level and at three demographic interfaces, those being Wilderness, Urban, and Residential. The point was clearly made that the Eradication Plan would be carried out most stringently at the Urban and Residential interfaces and that the “Protocols” were VERY EXPENSIVE!!!!!
At this juncture ,the rather disturbing issue of “Pet Protocols” was brought up. Since the country of Turkey was most advanced in designing regulations for treatment of domestic animals including cats and dogs, in this aspect, Dr. Dethlefsen reviewed what was required for our cats and dogs. The animals must be kenneled during the duration of the Protocol, their feces would need to be collected and destroyed to prevent re-infestation and the kennel area would need to be properly sanitized upon completion of the drug treatments. The drug Praziquantel was used and administered three times at two week intervals at an estimated cost of fifty to sixty dollars per treatment per animal (This is what Ed Bangs SHOULD have done with his wolves but did nothing!!!!!) This would put the cost of the drug treatment alone at over $150.00 per animal with the added expense of the kenneling. In Turkey the disease is considered so dangerous both health wise and economically that the treatments are funded by the government. The meeting then turned to the issue of the Scope of the Eradication Program. At this point both Dr. Ward and Dr. Dethlefsen concurred that all “sister” counties MUST be involved in the same control efforts if there is to be a successful elimination of Echincoccus granulosus. This would include sister counties across state lines. Dr. Dethlesen covered some aspects of sampling of canines, ungulates, and avian species that volunteers could do in lieu of training that WPCA would be giving for those people in each county that were interested in helping out with sampling. A very interesting issue came up at this point , Dr. Dethlefsen made the statement that it was just as important to find out with the sampling effort what areas had NOT been infested YET as it was those areas that were infested. He reiterated that by finding “clean areas” we could determine where the parasite was being carried from and we could put great emphasis on keeping those areas “clean” and pursuing the infestation where it was occurring.
Sadly another case of “deliberate incompetence” on the part of Ed Bangs came up when a question was fielded regarding the types of “care” given the Canadian Gray Wolves before they were released into our states. Dr. Dethlefsen stated that NO significance was given to the Echincoccus issue as a health threat to humans in the introduction areas and as a consequence the only treatments given the wolves for both the hard and soft releases were for THE HEALTH OF THE WOLVES!!!!! Everyone in the audience realized instantly that we had been allowed to believe that the wolves had been screened and treated for any threat to humans from diseases they were carrying , but in reality NOTHING had been done in this regard!!! The audience at this point was very visibly angered!! At this time a man from the audience stood up and faced the room and remarked that to Ed Bangs and Company the tapeworm was a non-issue, but to his family it was an extremely devastating disease, since his wife had just had a Hydatid cyst removed from her liver. He stated that the family was hoping and praying that there were no more cysts that the doctors had missed. The gentleman remarked that his part of the cost for his wife’s surgery was 63,000 dollars!
Question and answer time came next, with both Drs. Dethlefsen and Ward fielding the questions. An outfitter asked why Canada was not having a problem with Hydatid disease and if cougars and bears were also carriers? Dr. Dethlefsen responded that Canada was having a problem with Hydatid Disease at the present but that it was hard to extract the data from them because there was a lockdown on Canadian medical stats and he was not sure why. He responded to the second question that bear and cougar did not appear to be a significant carrier of the disease and that indeed in Asia there was a porcine strain of Echincoccus that bears carried but that it was not an issue here in North America. The conclusion of that question and answer was that the sampling being done would be very revealing as to which species in our ecosystems were the greatest carriers of the tapeworm and that when the data was in, Western States could take appropriate actions, but the actions must be science driven. An overhead was used during this time that showed the sampling data that WPCA had generated so far in testing Wolves from Ravalli County , Montana, from Lemhi and Custer Counties in Idaho, and from areas in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. The level of infestation was from 62% to 84% with the samples generally well distributed over the sampling areas. Clearly our counties in Idaho have a very serious problem to deal with since a 2006 report on Echincoccus in the north central part of Idaho showed over 60% of wolves as carriers of this tapeworm. Senator Jeff Siddoway asked some very pertinent questions, and then concluded that Dr. Dethlefsen was telling us that the only way to deal with wolves as the main carrier of Echincoccus granulosus was for Idaho to kill ALL the Canadian Gray Wolves. Again Dr. Dethlefsen was very firm in replying that he did not tell us that, but was showing us that we had a POTENTIAL health disaster to get prepared for and that WPCA could help by revealing to the counties where the carriers were and had come from. At this point Mrs. Bartell, yours truly, asked a question I had been waiting a long time to ask of somebody with the background to give us an authoritative answer. I asked Dr. Clay how the Echincoccus tapeworm traveled thru the hosts body and if could become systemic to a point that the tissues or meat of the carcass was contaminated. I think his shocking answer finally got through to our local cattle producers who have had their heads in the sand. He answered that upon ingestion of shed eggs from the gravid section of the tapeworm, the eggs hatch and mature and some migrate thru the intestinal wall and usually get into the blood stream. From the blood stream the worm can end up in several organs, such as the liver,lungs, or brain. Other viable worms can end up in the capillary buds thus contaminating the tissues of the carcass!!!!! Dr. Dethlefsen stopped for a few seconds to let the impact of this sink in. He then continued by stating that if the Hydatid Disease is found in either wild or domestic ungulates the days of asking , “How do you want your steak done?” are over!!!!!! The meat if eaten MUST be WELL COOKED!!! That was as close to a rancher’s wakeup call as I ever think I will ever hear!
In closing, Dr. Dethlefsen advised us to look into designing local ordinances, to study our State C Constitutions and local ordinances that are already in place for controlling infectious diseases. Also briefly discussed at the meetings end was the abuse of NEPA mandates which dictate by law that “HUMAN HEALTH AND SAFETY BE CONSIDERED AS WELL AS ECONOMIC IMPACTS BEFORE A SPECIES IS PROTECTED OR RELEASED IN AN AREA OF CONCERN”.
Mrs Bartell, I know I am leaving something out but this will give you an idea of what was covered at this informative meeting. I believe we are going to start up a WPCA chapter in Custer County and I know that Lemhi County already has. We hopefully will start to sample as soon as possible. Tell folks they can Google up Western Predator Control Association or WPCA to check out this group for themselves.