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April 18, 2015

Wisconsin dog owners should be cautious regarding canine flu

Paw prints at dog park

Dog prints at dog park

A Midwestern outbreak of canine influenza should spur caution among pet owners. “My recommendation for the next three to four weeks is that you talk to your veterinarian about your dogs’ risks, that you modify their behavior somewhat on where they go to dog parks and boarding facilities,” said Doctor Julia Bates, a veterinarian in Madison. “The best thing that we can do right now is not be paranoid, but be cautious.”

Canine influenza virus (CIV) has affected at least 1,000 dogs in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana in the last month, including at least one confirmed case in Madison, in a dog that had been at a Chicago dog park. “Hopefully, people being aware of it and staying away from places where dogs congregate is going to keep us from having an outbreak in the Madison area,” said Bates. “I think in the next three to four weeks we’re going to know what’s going to happen.

The vaccine for canine influenza may not be effective for the current outbreak. Previously thought to be caused by the H3N8 strain, which has been circulating in North America since 2004, recent tests from the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University have identified the strain as H3N2.

“It’s believed that the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia, but how it happened is not known,” said Keith Poulsen at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison, which has posted information for veterinarians. “The commercially available vaccines for CIV are made to protect against the H3N8 strain, and their effectiveness against the H3N2 strain is unknown at this time, but it is likely to be less effective.”

Both CIV strains can cause persistent cough, runny nose, and fever. A small percentage of dogs will develop more severe clinical signs; some will not show any symptoms at all. The infection has been associated with some deaths. Neither CIV strain is related to the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu, which was recently reported in a commercial flock in Jefferson County. There is also no evidence that either strain of CIV is contagious to humans.

Speaker Vos says SeniorCare fee increase possible (VIDEO)

While Republicans have backed away from a state budget proposal to make changes to Wisconsin’s SeniorCare prescription drug program, enrollment fees to join could more than double.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Tuesday that Republicans believe that a “small increase” in the current $30 enrollment fee is a reasonable proposition. When pressed on what constitutes a small increase though, Vos said they have not had specific discussions on that yet, but added that “five or seven dollars a month for a really good coverage plan, I don’t think is an unreasonable place to be.”

Setting the program at $5 a month would essentially double the yearly cost of SeniorCare.

Vos noted that the SeniorCare program has remain basically unchanged since before the creation of Medicare Part D, and any increase would still leave seniors with one of the cheapest plans in the state.

Governor Scott Walker’s budget plan calls for requiring SeniorCare enrollees to first get their drugs from Medicare Part D, while relying on the state program to fill the coverage gap. Republicans have indicated they plan to remove those changes though, after hearing concerns from seniors during statewide budget hearings.

Democrats have called on Republicans to leave the program completely unchanged.

Appeals court affirms rejection of Johnson Obamacare challenge

Senator Ron Johnson PHOTO: WRN

Senator Ron Johnson PHOTO: WRN

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s rejection of U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s Obamacare challenge. Tuesday’s unanimous opinion from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agreed with last July’s ruling by a U.S. District Judge in Green Bay, who said that Johnson and an aide lacked legal standing to bring the case because they had not shown any personal harm from the adoption of executive rules which implemented the Affordable Car Act.

The Wisconsin Republican was challenging a requirement that lawmakers and their staff members use the ObamaCare exchanges to get their tax-subsidized health insurance, arguing that those rules forced him to treat his staff differently than his constituents.

“For the second time, my attempt to restore the constitutional balance between the executive and legislative co-equal branches of government has been stymied by the courts,” Johnson said. “With this decision today, another executive action by the administration will go unchallenged, all based on the legal technicality of standing.”

Johnson said he and his legal team will review the decision prior to determining their next step.

New bill would fully legalize marijuana in Wisconsin

Marijuana plant (file photo)

Marijuana plant (file photo)

People in Wisconsin could use marijuana for medicinal purposes as well as recreational, under the proposal introduced by Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison). Though, passage seems grim even as the Madison Democrat seeks cosponsors. Governor Scott Walker opposes legalization, calling marijuana a “gateway” drug.

Sargent said legalizing the controversial drug would reduce crime and create jobs. “Just like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition does not eliminate the use of this product. It simply steers the profit into the underground market.” Sargent argued communities would be safer if law enforcement were able to focus on serious issues, like heroin use and domestic violence.

While GOP lawmakers at the Capitol are not champing at the bit to support decriminalizing pot, Sargent said individual supporters contacting her office are affiliated with all political persuasions. “This is not an issue that we should be considering as a party issue. This is a values issue; this is something that is the best for the people of our state.”

This bill allows for personal cultivation of no more than 12 marijuana plants at a time. Those 21 and older could possess up to a quarter-ounce of pot.

Sargent is calling for an annual state licensing fee of $1,000 for marijuana producers and sellers, and a 25 percent excise tax on sales. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in four states Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Twenty other states allow the drug for medicinal purposes

The governor’s office responded via email to the introduction of this legislation:

Governor Walker opposes legislation legalizing the use of marijuana. This is a gateway drug and Governor Walker has also heard from law enforcement professionals who have significant concerns about the impact of legalizing this drug.

Instead, Governor Walker is focused on supporting Wisconsin’s workers and employers by investing in our priorities and developing our workforce through worker training and readiness proposals. This includes his plan to provide drug treatment and job training to able bodied adults receiving unemployment insurance or public assistance benefits who fail drug screening. His goal is to help improve lives and communities throughout the state by helping people move from government dependence to true independence.

Sargent introduced similar legislation in the previous legislative session. This bill is slightly different. “We’ve completely removed edibles and infusions.” She added, “There are deep concerns in other state about the impact on young people.” If you want to buy the stuff and make your own special brownies, that would be permitted under this measure.  This bill also includes a grow-your-own provision. And, they’ve moved to decriminalization.

Gary Storck is a longtime cannabis advocate and founder of Is My Medicine Legal Yet? “Even people who have historically opposed this have to be aware of the changes that are occurring around the country and just how many places are looking at this.” He said the benefits of pot are getting hard to ignore.

Governor Walker signed a CBD bill a year ago this week. Cannabidiol, or CBD, comes from the marijuana plant. It is touted as a breakthrough treatment for kids suffering seizure disorders, though it’s very controlled and critics say it’s watered down.

Wisconsin is latest state to report avian influenza

usdaA highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in Wisconsin. The H5N2 avian influenza has been confirmed in a commercial flock of 200,000 chickens in Jefferson County, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The flock is located within the Mississippi flyway where this strain of avian influenza has previously been identified. Samples from the chicken flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed the findings.

Federal authorities are working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on a joint incident response. “We are following strict protocols to contain and eliminate the disease,” said Dr. Paul McGraw, Wisconsin’s State Veterinarian. “Now that we have a confirmation, it’s in a poultry owner’s best interest to take precautions to minimize the effect that this strain of avian influenza will have on their flock.”

State officials quarantined the Jefferson County premises and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. The Federal Centers for Disease Control considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low. No human infections with the virus have been detected at this time.

Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus which can infect poultry and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.