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Swedish experts baffled by 'mystery' elk illness

Swedish experts baffled by 'mystery' elk illness

Published: 10 Aug 2012 09:47 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Aug 2012 09:47 GMT+02:00

A unexplained illness has been plaguing the elk community of southern Sweden, with experts perplexed as to why so many are being found dead or dying.

The elk population around Blekinge in southern Sweden has been threatened by an unexplained disease.

14 adult elk have recently been found in the woods in severe states of paralysis, emaciation and blindness.

The blindness has resulted in some falling victim to traffic accidents; however experts have been left scratching their heads at to what is actually causing the illness.

“There is no scientific explanation,” said Lennart Balk of the Stockholm University to the Aftonbladet newspaper.

Balk has been researching the mortality of elk, and has pointed to the tens of thousands of wild birds that have also died in the area by a lack of thiamine, or vitamine B1, as a possible link.

“We see that the elk are infected with the same clinical symptomatology, but it is too early to say whether it's the same disease,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Veterinary Institute (Statens veterinärmedicinska anstalt, SVA) is making an investigation into the deaths, but is yet to find any concrete results.

Viral and parasitic infections have been ruled out, and so have possible contaminants in the environment.

“It’s a mystery. These are animals that are in good condition. They are confused, and the one bull we had in was emaciated. We don’t know what’s causing it,” said Torsten Mörner of the SVA to the paper, adding that it’s “strange” that something would stop an elk from eating over the summer.

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Your comments about this article

15:15 August 10, 2012 by tadchem
American populations of deer (American Elk) are suffering from the prion disease Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and incoordination, and eventually die.

The method of transmission is not fully understood. Evidence suggests the disease is spread through either direct animal-to-animal contact or indirect exposure to prions in the environment such as in contaminated feed or water sources. The local outbreak suggests a local source.
00:35 August 11, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
The animal pictured here and discussed in the article is not an elk.....it is a moose! Why does The Local constantly mix these two different animals up?
09:52 August 11, 2012 by HYBRED
The pictured animal is known as a älg in Sweden. It is translated to elk in English.
11:17 August 11, 2012 by Stonebridge
@ Spuds MacKenzie: This animal is called an elk in British English.

Moose is the American term. Elk is a different creature in N. America.

Check the wikipedia article here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose
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