April 20, 2015

Second outbreak of H5N2 avian influenza virus detected in Iowa

Agriculture-Department-logoState Agriculture officials confirm the second Iowa facility that’s infected with a highly contagious bird flu.

The latest outbreak of the H5N2 avian influenza is reported in a commercial egg laying facility in northwest Iowa’s Osceola County.

The first outbreak was found in a turkey facility in Buena Vista County, just to the south of Osceola County, and impacted 37,000 birds. This latest outbreak ramps up the impact significantly with 5.3 million birds that will have to be destroyed. The facility has been put under quarantine.

It is believed the virus is carried by the migration of wild birds. The Iowa Department of Public Health says the risk to people from the virus is considered to be low and there have been no human cases detected.

Turkey federation: growers remain vigilant to prevent spread of bird flu

An Iowa turkey. (file photo)

An Iowa turkey. (file photo)

It’s been almost a week since state officials confirmed a very deadly version of bird flu in a turkey flock in northwest Iowa’s Buena Vista County and poultry producers statewide are staying vigilant to prevent the spread. So far, no new poultry flocks in Iowa have been impacted.

Katie Olthoff raises turkeys near the Hamilton County town of Stanhope and says numerous precautions are in place. “We’re practicing really great biosecurity right now, clean boots, clean clothes, clean hands, clean equipment,” Olthoff says. “We’re limiting visitors inside of our barns and our family is trying to stay away from anywhere that there may be wild waterfowl.”

It’s believed wild waterfowl are spreading the disease. The discovery of the H5N2 virus forced the destruction of the entire 27,000 turkey flock in Buena Vista County. While this strain of influenza is particularly deadly to chickens, turkey and other poultry, it hasn’t hit any people, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune.

“It is a flu virus so it can mutate to effect humans, but so far, it hasn’t,” Olthoff says. “In all the farms that have been effected, and there have been 22 up in Minnesota and several others in the Midwest, the Department of Public Health has been monitoring the farm employees and they have not seen any flu symptoms in those farm employees.”

Olthoff is a communications specialist for the Iowa Turkey Federation, based in Ames. In addition to Iowa, cases of this type of bird flu are reported in Montana, Minnesota, Kansas, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Missouri.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


ISU says Hoiberg’s heart surgery went well

Fred Hoiberg answers questions after NCAA loss.

Fred Hoiberg answers questions after NCAA loss in March.

A news release from Iowa State university says men’s basketball head coach Fred Hoiberg underwent successful open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve on today (Friday) at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The news release included just a couple of lines:

“Everything went very well,” Dr. Rakesh Suri said. “The operation was a success and Mr. Hoiberg is in recovery and doing very well himself.”

The Hoiberg family would like to thank the many individuals who have prayed for Fred and shared their support as well as the medical staff at the Mayo Clinic.


Dog flu hitting surrounding states, but few cases reported in Iowa

Dasher-4-15-15Dog owners in Iowa are warned to be on the lookout for signs of CIV, or canine influenza virus. Outbreaks are reported in the Midwest, including in the neighboring states of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Dr. Beth Streeter, a veterinarian with the Iowa Veterinary Referral Center in Des Moines, says the so-called dog flu is a concern, but there are no big outbreaks in Iowa as yet and very few reported cases statewide.

“It’s something to be aware of and to watch pets for,” Dr. Streeter says. “It’s a little bit early to get too worried about it, other than in a proactive fashion, meaning, watching their pets for any signs of influenza and for veterinarians, being aware of the potential precautions to take with any pets exhibiting signs of influenza.” Iowans who own dogs are advised to be vigilant for signs of illness in their pets.

“A lot of people, with they hear flu, think of the (gastro intestinal) flu, and that’s actually not what’s most commonly seen,” Streeter says. “This is a respiratory virus so you’re looking for signs of cough, nasal discharge, fever and just generally not feeling well.”

More than 1,000 dog flu cases are reported in four states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Much like with the human version of the flu, CIV can worsen if left untreated and become life-threatening.

“There are reports of dogs in Chicago succumbing to the illness and it can be quite serious in some pets,” Streeter says. “It’s also very contagious so we have to be very careful, if dogs do have signs of the flu, to keep them isolated and make sure they’re not exposing other pets.”

She says there is a vaccine for CIV but there are reports of complications with it. Also, this strain of dog flu may not have been included in the vaccine’s cocktail, so dogs that are vaccinated may still not be protected. Streeter suggests dog owners avoid contact with other pets they don’t know if they’re traveling in states where there are outbreaks, while limiting visits to dog parks and boarding facilities.

Cedar Rapids hospital opens ‘Telehealth Clinic’ at Rockwell Collins


Doctors see patients via a camera link in the Telehealth Clinic.

It’s not quite as advanced as the hologram of a doctor on Star Trek, but a Cedar Rapids hospital is linking up with that community’s largest private employer to offer a new type of remote medical care.

MercyCare Community Physicians is opening what it’s calling a Telehealth Clinic on the main campus of Rockwell Collins. Mercy’s Katie Ripke says it will offer Rockwell employees convenient, same-day office visits.

“They’ll come into the clinic, they’ll register and get taken back to a room by a nurse just like a traditional office visit,” Ripke says. “Once they get back there, the nurse will take their vitals and then instead of leaving the room for the doctor to come in, they will pull the doctor up on the screen and the doctor will be at a different location. Throughout the visit, the nurse will remain in the room to conduct the diagnostics.”

It’s a first-of-its kind partnership in Iowa and this will be one of only a few such clinics in the nation offering on-site, Telehealth technology to provide care to employees. “The doctor will actually be able to see everything that he would normally see in a traditional office setting but everything is done through audio-visual equipment,” Ripke says. “The equipment is so high-tech and high-definition, quite frankly, they can hear things better through the stethoscope than they can even in a traditional office setting.”

Through the main video feed, the doctor is able to interact with the patient and give instruction, while a separate video feed allows the physician to see detailed images from the diagnostic equipment. A host of ailments can be addressed. “It’s very similar to an urgent care clinic,” Ripke says. “Most acute things, somewhere around 80% of the things that you would be seen in an urgent care setting for, you could be seen in the Telehealth setting for, things like sore throats, sinus infections, ear infections, urinary tract infections, those types of things.”

The service will launch next week and will be available to employees of the avionics giant — and their dependents over age five — who subscribe to specific health plans. Rockwell Collins has about 87-hundred workers in Cedar Rapids.



Senate passes medical marijuana bill with one Republican vote

Charles Schneider

Charles Schneider

The Iowa Senate passed a bill legalizing marijuana for medical use today by one vote, 26-19. Republican Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale joined 25 Democrats in voting for the bill, while one Democrat, Tod Bowman of Maquoketa, voted against it. The bill’s future in the Republican-controlled House is uncertain.

Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, had offered an amendment to reclassify marijuana to would allow doctors to prescribe it as a treatment and allow medical research. That amendment failed and he said he can’t support the bill.

“Some day I may be comfortable with a state program, but until some of these other issues are addressed, until we know that we can address them through a state program, then I think we ought to go through the same process that any other prescription medication does so we can treat this like a prescription drug,” according to Schneider.

Mark Chelgren

Mark Chelgren

Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, credited Democrats for listening and working to make changes to the bill, but he also said he still has concerns that marijuana hasn’t gone through the FDA process for medical use.

“The bill doesn’t define anything with regards to the qualifications. The bill doesn’t define anything with regards to the liability, the bonding side of it. And quite honestly, large pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to be doing this,” Chelgren said. “I think that there will be quite a few people who will step up and say ‘I want to grow or I want to dispense,’ but I’m not sure any of those companies will actually have the financial wherewithal to take care of our citizens if something goes wrong.”

Chelgren said the bill does not address any of those concerns and has gone away from being a bipartisan compromise.”This is a political bill that is simply to say to the House, ‘shame on you if you don’t do it our way.’ That’s really disappointing, because that is not what this should have been about,” Chelgren said.

Matt McCoy

Matt McCoy

Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, responded in support of the bill. “And I strongly disagree with the previous speaker who indicated that he believed that this was a political bill — I do not believe that,” McCoy said. “I believe that the courage demonstrated by the families that have been here for really the last two sessions pleading their case to this legislature is about courage. Their courage to come here day-after-day and to plead their case on behalf of their children.”

McCoy said approving the bill will keep the issue moving forward. “I believe that sick Iowans deserve this treatment. I believe that this measure, when it goes to the House, will be a strong indication to the state of Iowa and all those Iowans who so strongly support this measure, that it will move the House,” according to McCoy.

Bill Dotzler

Bill Dotzler

Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said senators are elected to do the will of the people. “And this is the first issue in my 19 years that I’ve ever seen the public so affirmed about why we should pass a piece of legislation. Never has it reached this type of support on any issue,” Dotzler said.

Dotzler said the legislature has to move the issue forward for those who are in need of the help that medical marijuana will provide. “And if we wait and say ‘okay federal government we want you to do it,’ Iowans won’t have the same opportunity to get the health care they need like 23 other states do, and over a million Americans have these medical marijuana cards. And we’re saying our surrounding states are okay, but we’re afraid here and we want to put it off,” Dotzler said.

Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha has said he has no plans to consider medical marijuana in this session.


Quinnipiac poll shows Iowans have split views on marijuana use

marijuana plants

marijuana plants

A new survey shows Iowa voters are divided over the issue of legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Peter Brown is assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Iowans are split right down the middle on the question of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, 47-percent of Iowans told Quinnipiac they favor legalization, while 47-percent oppose it,” Brown says.

Quinnipiac also surveyed voters in two other states on the same issue. Voters in Virginia support so-called recreational pot 54-41 percent, while Colorado voters still back their first-in-the-nation experiment 62-34 percent.

In Iowa, Brown notes support for legalized recreational use of marijuana is much stronger among Democrats than Republicans. There’s also a large gap on the issue among age groups.

Support for personal use of marijuana is 62-32 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old, while voters 35 to 54 years old are divided 47-47 percent and voters over 55 years old are opposed 53-41 percent. Iowans, meanwhile, overwhelming favor the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

The Quinnipiac poll shows 87-percent of the Iowans surveyed support the use of medical marijuana, while 11-percent are against its legalization. Last week, dozens of people took part in a rally at the statehouse and met with legislators to lobby for a new state law that would allow marijuana to be grown and dispensed in Iowa — as treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.

The Quinnipiac University Poll was conducted between March 29 and April 7 and involved phone interviews with 948 Iowa voters.