OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of veterinary medicine

West Nile virus activity on the increase in Oregon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Although summer may be winding down, the threat of West Nile virus in Oregon appears to be increasing, putting humans and some animals at risk.

The Oregon Health Authority has confirmed two human cases of West Nile virus in Oregon this week. And the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University, which provides testing for the state, is reporting the highest levels of West Nile virus activity in mosquitoes since 2009. The lab has confirmed the virus in 58 different “pools” of mosquitoes – of which 55 were located in Malheur County.

In contrast, only three pools of West Nile virus were confirmed last year in Oregon, and four in 2010.

“It is still far less than in past years, such as 2006, when we confirmed the virus in some 1,100 pools of mosquitoes,” said Donna Mulrooney, supervisor of the molecular diagnostics section of OSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. “However, activity has been increasing over the past couple of weeks and it’s possible that it could continue moving west across the state.”

The virology section of the diagnostic lab has also confirmed West Nile virus in one horse in Klamath County, and in a crow from Malheur County. Certain birds are known carriers of West Nile virus, Mulrooney said.

“Infected crows, ravens, jays and other members of the corvid family are considered ‘reservoirs’ and will carry very high viral loads of West Nile,” she pointed out. “If they are bitten by mosquitoes, those mosquitoes invariably will become infected with the virus.

“Horses, on the other hand, are known as ‘dead-end’ hosts,” Mulrooney added. “They don’t carry enough of a viral load to infect mosquitoes if bitten. However, the danger to horses is real. Anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of horses infected with West Nile virus will die.”

In Oregon, West Nile virus surveillance efforts are coordinated and funded by the Oregon Health Authority, with testing of animals and mosquitoes performed at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Emilio DeBess, Oregon Health Authority veterinarian, said West Nile virus typically peaks around Labor Day Weekend. He recommends the following precautions for Oregonians:

  • Eliminate sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including watering troughs, bird baths, clogged gutters and old tires;
  • Protect yourself when outside, especially at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active, by using repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin, and follow directions;
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas;
  • Make sure screen doors and windows fit tightly and are in good repair.

More information on West Nile virus, including symptoms in humans, is available from the Oregon Health Authority at: http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/DiseasesAZ/WestNileVirus/Pages/survey.aspx

Seventeen Oregon counties maintain mosquito control programs, and many of these vector control agencies conduct preliminary testing for West Nile virus then send the mosquitoes to the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for confirmation. Mulrooney and her colleagues use a polymerase chain reaction test to confirm the virus in mosquitoes, and serology (blood) tests to confirm the disease in horses.

The vector control agencies capture mosquitoes in traps at different strategic locations throughout the county, thus the 50 pools of West Nile virus means infected mosquitoes were found at multiple locations in Malheur County.

“Fifty to 60 pools of West Nile virus isn’t necessarily unusual, but that kind of widespread activity through Malheur County suggests that it might be ready to jump county lines,” said Jerry Heidel, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

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Donna Mulrooney, 541-737-6615

OSU partners with Woodburn School District to increase diversity in medical field

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is hoping to inspire a new generation of students to consider pursuing medical careers by giving high school students from the Woodburn area the chance to spend a week exploring the world of veterinary medicine.

OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Biomedical Sciences at OSU are partnering with the Woodburn School District to sponsor the Summer Veterinary Experience, which begins Sunday, Aug. 12, and continues through Aug. 17 on the OSU campus.

Veterinary Medicine leaders say the college is committed to increasing the diversity of its student body, which contains 4 percent students of color. By contrast, 86.2 percent of Woodburn School District’s students are classified as minorities. Most of the summer program participants are students of color.

“Woodburn Schools are producing high academic achievers, who are bilingual,” said Susan Tornquist, OSU associate dean for student and academic affairs with the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We hope this partnership will help reach out to students who might not originally think of pursuing a medical degree.”

Ten sophomores and juniors from in and around Woodburn will participate in the program. They will learn about all aspects of the veterinary medicine field, including time in research and anatomy labs and clinical settings. They’ll also have the chance to meet with faculty, and will be assigned a current vet med student as a mentor. They will stay in residence halls on campus and will learn about admission requirements and financial aid opportunities.

“It’s important that students start thinking now about what they need to do in the future to be able to attend college,” said Woodburn School Superintendent David Bautista. 

If successful, the program may be extended to middle school students in the future.

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Dr. Susan Tornquist, 541-737-6943

Childhood obesity may affect puberty, create problems with reproduction

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A dramatic increase in childhood obesity in recent decades may have impacts that go beyond the usual health concerns – it could be disrupting the timing of puberty and ultimately lead to a diminished ability to reproduce, especially in females.

A body of research suggests that obesity could be related to growing problems with infertility, scientists said in a recent review, in addition to a host of other physical and psycho-social concerns. The analysis was published in Frontiers in Endocrinology.

Human bodies may be scrambling to adjust to a problem that is fairly new. For thousands of years of evolution, poor nutrition or starvation were a greater concern, rather than an overabundance of food.

“The issue of so many humans being obese is very recent in evolutionary terms, and since nutritional status is important to reproduction, metabolic syndromes caused by obesity may profoundly affect reproductive capacity,” said Patrick Chappell, an assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Oregon State University and an author of the recent report.

“Either extreme of the spectrum, anorexia or obesity, can be associated with reproduction problems,” he said.

Researchers are still learning more about the overall impact of obesity on the beginning of puberty and effects on the liver, pancreas and other endocrine glands, Chappell said. While humans show natural variations in pubertal progression, the signals that control this timing are unclear.

But in general, puberty appears to be starting earlier in girls. It is being accelerated.

This may have several effects, scientists have found. One theory is an impact on kisspeptin, a recently characterized neurohormone necessary for reproduction. Normal secretions of this hormone may be disrupted by endocrine signals from fat that serve to communicate to the brain.

Another possible affect on pubertal timing, and reproduction in general, is disruption of circadian clocks, which reflect the natural rhythms of night and day. Disrupted sleep-wake cycles can affect the secretion of hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and insulin, researchers have found.

“Any disruption of circadian clocks throughout the body can cause a number of problems, and major changes in diet and metabolism can affect these cellular clocks,” Chappell said. “Disruption of the clock through diet can even feed into a further disruption of normal metabolism, making the damage worse, as well as affecting sleep and reproduction.”

Molecular mechanisms have only started to be uncovered in the past decade, the report said, and the triggers that control pubertal development are still widely debated. For millennia, many mammals made adjustments to reduce fertility during periods of famine. But it now appears that an excess of fat can also be contributing to infertility rates and reproductive diseases.

Some studies in humans have found correlations between early puberty and the risk of reproductive cancers, adult-onset diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Early onset puberty has also been associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety in girls, studies have found, as well as increased delinquent behavior, smoking and early sexual experiences in both girls and boys.

Other research has suggested that such problems can persist into adulthood, along with lower quality of life, higher rates of eating disorders, lower academic achievement and higher rates of substance abuse.

Additional research is needed to better understand the effect of these processes on metabolism, hormones and other development processes, the survey concluded.

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Patrick Chappell, 541-737-5361

OSU to host popular Pet Day program on Saturday, May 5

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will hold its 25th annual Pet Day celebration this Saturday, May 5, when the College of Veterinary Medicine opens its doors for tours, displays and a number of family-oriented events.

This is no ordinary open house. One of the more popular events at the university, Pet Day annually draws 3,000 to 4,000 visitors – many of whom bring their pets.

“Pet Day has always been a day where the community can come out and enjoy the campus while learning about veterinary medicine,” said Jaci Abbatantono, a second-year OSU veterinary medicine student and co-chair for the event. “Pet Day has grown as the college has grown and I think it is exciting for Oregonians to come back year after year to see the changes in both the college and veterinary medicine as a profession.”

In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Pet Day, the college will host some new events, Abbatantono said. “In addition to an alumni gathering, there are new lectures and some exciting new animals in the petting zoo. We also have returning favorites such as the fun run, dog agility and tours of the college.”

Pet Day runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Magruder Hall, located on 30th Street in Corvallis just south of Washington Way, and adjacent to the athletic department’s Truax Indoor Center. Admittance and most events are free; there is a small charge for a handful of the events.

Among the activities will be dog agility demonstrations, a petting zoo, a pet wash, Frisbee contests for dogs, tours of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and more. Numerous organizations and vendors will have displays, providing free samples, information and other resources on everything from pet food to shelter medicine.

Pet Day is sponsored by the College of Veterinary Medicine, and supported by Banfield Pet Hospital, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Nestle Purina PetCare Co., the Oregon Animal Health Foundation, and the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA).

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OSU joins consortium of vet med colleges

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has joined four other universities with colleges of veterinary medicine to form a consortium designed to create more opportunities for students, faculty and professionals in the field.

The Consortium of Western Regional Colleges of Veterinary Medicine is a regional “think tank” committed to strategic planning, action and collaboration, according to Cyril Clarke, dean of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

“The concept behind the creation of this consortium is to identify areas of potential collaboration and to share ideas and resources in support of educating veterinarians who are well-prepared to enter practice,” Clarke said. “In light of the budgetary challenges facing our state, it is essential we work with colleagues of other veterinary colleges in our region to provide students access to educational opportunities relevant to a wide range of veterinary careers.”

Joining OSU in the consortium are Colorado State University, the University of California at Davis, Washington State University, and Western University of Health Sciences.

One of the first initiatives consortium members will pursue, Clarke says, is faculty development. The universities plan to create a regional teaching academy that would offer advanced instruction for faculty on the latest innovations and research in veterinary medicine.

Other topics and issues the consortium will address include:

  • Removing the gaps between societal needs and selected career tracks among veterinarians;
  • Recruitment of veterinary students and professional readiness of graduating veterinarians;
  • Learning and application of “soft skills,” such as communication and veterinarian-client interactions;
  • Creating rich and innovative learning environments for students.

“Veterinary medicine is a constantly evolving field, with new technologies and challenges,” Clarke said. “Collaborating with colleagues on issues of mutual interest will make all of us better prepared to educate our students and serve the veterinary profession.”

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Cyril Clarke, 541-737-0811

OSU College of Vet Medicine to hold equine reproduction workshop

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine will host a four-day workshop in February that will provide horse owners and veterinarians with information on reproductive management for mares and stallions.

The workshop will run from Feb. 16-19 in Magruder Hall on the OSU campus. Interested persons should register by Jan. 13; registration and fee information is available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/vetmed/continuing

The workshop will include informational presentations on anatomy, hormones, management of pregnant mares and behavior issues, as well as two days of laboratory experience on topics related to reproductive management.

For more information contact Bernadette Stang of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine at 541-737-8306.

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Bernadette Stang, 541-737-8306