Friday, March 20, 2020

Disease affects the outdoors also. Should we react to COVID-19 with humans the way we do with diseases for animals?

I got home around 3 a.m. The day was long. I sat patiently for 12 hours making sure to capture the images I needed and properly catalog them with captions and keywords. I was told at 9:30 a.m. I would get further directives on this mission of importance.

After 6 hours of sleep I woke to the tone from my phone indicating I had a message received. I took a peek, and my task was clear. I showered, hustled to the truck and drove the two hours back to my base of operations. With 30 minutes to spare, I arrived and prepped my gear.

Then the unthinkable happened. With just 15 minutes until the moment of importance, it was announced it all had been canceled.

No, this wasn’t a top-secret operative in which I was running reconnaissance for some clandestine organization. Nor was this a seek and find mission of some rare species that only appears during a specific time.

No, this was the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and I was credentialed photographer/media.
The 2020 ACC Men's Basketball was cancelled prior to the third round of play.

COVID-19, aka the Wuhan flu, aka the coronavirus, had reared its ugliness and may have done something much worse than getting someone sick. It caused fear.

Now, fear is warranted in some situations. This is likely one of them. It spreads quickly, it mutates, and it is deadly to the elderly and infirmed. Have we gone too far in our reactions? That can be debated. And that debate is where I am headed with this column.
As hunters and anglers, this type of thing is one of the many things that makes us valuable as stewards to this planet. We are often the equivalent of both first reporters and first responders in the outdoors.

Fish kill? We often are the ones that notice first and report to the wildlife agencies.
Diseased wildlife? Yes, that would be us as the first on the scene as well, in most cases.

Now, what are the responses to such things? Well, pretty much what we are doing with this coronavirus outbreak.

We have to limit the spread while also determining the cause. Doesn’t matter whether it is dead fish or dead mammals. The way to do those things is slightly different though.
When something such as blue tongue disease or chronic wasting disease (CWD) is detected, in order to limit the spread, animals can be quarantined to a certain area and then killed. Of course, we don’t do that to humans. However, Italy has limited to offering care to those that they deem may survive and not administering care to the elderly. But again, this is regarding the outdoors and not as much the current human situation.

The areas may be targeted by use of hunters, or wildlife agents and paid crews to eradicate any animals that may have a risk of spreading disease. For something like CWD, an equivalent of travel bans exists in order to prevent spread. There are laws set up to prohibit the transfer of body parts across state lines from states or regions that have known cases of CWD, as well as the prohibition of transporting live animals.

The main key here is what we are doing for coronavirus is what we do in nature to protect the greater numbers. And as frustrating as it may be for us to lose revenue, entertainment and experience other inconveniences, it is vitally important in controlling what could be without those measures.

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