Arsema Weldu, Germany, University of Illinois, May 27, 2014

Our second day of visiting the Friedrich Loeffler Institute encompassed a series of interesting, relevant, and thought-provoking lectures. Being able to learn from, and discuss with experts involved in the public health field was truly a valuable experience and one we all were lucky to have been a part of. What I appreciated most of all from everyone who spoke to us was the fact that they were so enthusiastic about their field of expertise and how encouraging they were to hear our questions and our thoughts on topics. I walked away feeling humbled at how readily we were welcomed and will always appreciate that.

Lecture 1: Rift Valley Fever presented by Martin Eiden

Dr. Eiden discussed what Rift Valley Fever (RFV) is, clinical signs associated with it, as well as relevant current information on the topic. It is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes causing a fever commonly seen in cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goats. This virus is in the family Bunyaviridae and is most commonly found in eastern as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. It was found in Kenya in the 1930’s and spread outward. The virus is still circulating with the main reservoir being camels. Most recently, an outbreak in gazelle on the border of Senegal and Mauritania occurred in 2013.

The cycle involves eggs being deposited in the ground, which can not only persist for a long time but can infect people too. RFV causes abortion most commonly in livestock but influenza-like symptoms or possible encephalitis in humans. Lambs, interestingly, are highly susceptible to RFV more so than other species. Outbreaks of RFV have significant economic impacts on those affected and it also affects trade between countries.

Lecture 2: African Swine Fever presented by Sandra Blome

African Swine Fever (ASF), a highly contagious hemorrhagic virus, affects pigs and is difficult to control but thankfully, it is not zoonotic. It is a DNA virus that can be transmitted by a tick vector but a vector is not necessary for infection. This disease, like RFV is also economically important in terms of swine production. Dr. Blome mentioned that ASF is a definite concern in Russia where it is spreading in the domestic and wild pig population and it is extremely difficult, or rather impossible, to maintain control over wild pigs crossing over into Europe. This virus has now spread to the edges of Eastern Europe with some outbreaks popping up.

Unfortunately, the virus is highly resistant to freezing and can remain infectious for many months. Also, there is no treatment for ASF and no advancements in vaccine production have been made yet. Most emphasis is placed on prevention and trying to avoid transportation of infected pig products into areas free of ASF. An interesting fact mentioned was that warthogs show viremia but do not show clinical signs and do not die from the disease.

Lecture 3: Schmallenberg Virus presented by Kerstin Wernike

Schmallenberg virus, a reportable but not zoonotic disease affects ruminants causing a fever, decreased milk production with possible diarrhea in adults. What was most interesting was how this disease was detected. There was a decrease in milk production and other disease processes were ruled out, furthering research for a new pathogen.

It was found that the midge (culicoides) transmitted the virus and the viremia lasted for 4-5 days. Further on it was determined that a pregnant cow infected during a certain time (between approximately day 50-100) would likely deliver an infected calf. Malformed calves and lambs were seen with clinical signs involving torticollis, misshapen limbs, and hydrancephaly. Thankfully, there is now a vaccine available but we are still unsure of where the virus came from but a theory is that it might have come from a relative disease from Australia or Africa.

Lecture 4: IT and Geographical Information Systems in Animal Disease Control presented by Franz Conraths

Information on outbreaks or potential outbreaks needs to be reported immediately in order to gain control and address those outbreaks. In order to do this, there needs to be a system of communication. There are official vets in all districts who report to state vets. A center for disease database allows certain people access to it and this is useful for management and control practices. This database is not only to collect information; it is used to give information back to the vets as well as the public about public health related issues (essentially a network for early warning of diseases like Avian Influenza).

Lecture 5: Rabies and Bats presented by Thomas Müller

Dr. Müller led the presentation by pointing out that there are 50,000 deaths every year from rabies. These occur mostly in areas in Asia and Africa. Predominantly rabies has a stronghold in more rural vs. urban regions. Rabies is in the family Rhabdoviridae and genus Lyssavirus and bats are the true reservoir in the world, however with spillover subsequent infectious can happen without the presence of bats.

Rabies in bats was first reported in Germany in 1954, and Germany has reported one of the highest numbers of positive rabies cases in Europe. Unfortunately, passive surveillance is tightly regulated due to an act passed in 2005, stating that the status of indigenous bats be changed to highly protected and this restricts the amount and type of handling as well as submission of bats that could e rabies infected. This sparked a discussion about whether the high numbers of rabies in Germany was because of a well-developed investigative, and reporting system or whether it was because there is actually a true discrepancy of cases of rabies in Europe.

Lecture 6: Avian Influenza presented by Christian Grund

We talked about the dramatic clinical signs associated with Avian Influenza including edema, cyanosis, and CNS signs. Transmission occurs through the respiratory tract, conjunctiva, and feces and can be direct or indirect in nature. It has an incredibly fast incubation period (1-3 days). We differentiated between low pathogenic (mainly restricted to the respiratory tract) and high pathogenic (more to do with CNS signs). Some strategies to eliminate this disease include stamping it out by depopulating, and vaccinating.

Lecture 7: Pathology “Transboundary Disease” presented by Jens Teifke

During this lecture, Dr. Teifke defined pathology for us and described various pathologies including African Swine Fever. He also described what MALDI is. Matrix- Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization is a type of mass spectrometry imaging modality. Essentially, the point is to try to visualize the spatial distribution of particles in a tissue sample to eventually characterize and aid in drug development among other things.

We followed up the lectures by having dinner at the Utkiek. The choices of fresh seafood dishes were appetizingly delicious and we had an amazing view even with overcast skies and a bit of drizzle! The atmosphere was relaxing and the conversation interesting; all in all, it made a great end to a fascinating day!

<a href=””><img class=”size-medium wp-image-1199″ src=”×223.png” alt=”Hotel Utkiek restaurant” width=”300″ height=”223″ /></a> Hotel Utkiek restaurant