U.S. Congresswoman Introduces Legislation to Curb Invasive Species
Yesterday evening, the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 5864) was introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and a bipartisan group of nine original co-sponsors to prevent the import of harmful, non-native fish, wildlife, and wildlife diseases. This legislation would strengthen the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) ability to designate animals as “injurious,” which cannot be imported or shipped between states without a permit. The legislation would empower the FWS to become proactive rather than reactive in its listing and restriction process, and stop harmful invasive fish and wildlife from ever arriving at U.S. shores. Original co-sponsors are Reps. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Mike Rogers (R-MI).
Examples of damaging imported invaders include Asian carp species, specifically the bighead and silver carp. These giant fish were imported in the 1970s, and escaped or were released into the wild. They are now thriving throughout the Mississippi River basin with only an electric barrier keeping them out of the Great Lakes. H.R. 5864 proposes a new process that could have kept these two intentionally imported species out of the country, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in control costs. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, approximately $204 million has been spent by federal, state, and local governments from 1998 through 2011, in an attempt to stop the spread of these fish into the Great Lakes.
“If this legislation had been introduced decades ago, species like bighead and silver carp would have been banned before the first shipment,” said Jennifer Nalbone, director of Navigation and Invasive Species for Great Lakes United. “We have a lesson to learn from the Asian carp crisis; it’s time to put an updated, proactive approach in place. Our best defense is to screen out potential invaders from imports in the first place.”
For years, the federal government has come under sharp criticism for allowing the import of invasive animal species that cause damage, are a burden to taxpayers, or present safety or health threats. Examples include venomous red lionfish, originally imported for the aquarium trade and now invading the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and Burmese pythons originally imported for the pet trade and now menacing the Florida Everglades. The bill would implement a new regulatory process to more rapidly evaluate risks of importing non-native wildlife, and restrict those species that pose serious risks before they are imported to the United States. Current legislation regulating animal imports does not require that animals being imported first be screened for invasiveness, for diseases they might carry, or for the risks they pose to human or wildlife health.
This proposed legislation will create a new FWS screening system within six years, while immediately giving the agency greater flexibility and authority to make science-based decisions regarding prohibiting or restricting live animals in trade. The FWS also would get emergency authority to respond to the animal and human health threats posed by the live animal trade, a known potential vector for pathogens such as the West Nile and monkeypox viruses.
“The existing 112-year-old regulatory process is very slow and utterly inadequate for the massive trade of live wild animals that is occurring in the 21st Century. It’s like continuing to use a musket in the age of unmanned drones,” said Peter Jenkins, spokesperson for the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species. “The listing of a damaging, non-native species often occurs after the species has either escaped or been released and become established, and this proves extremely costly for both taxpayers and ecosystems.”
As a leading import market, the United States receives hundreds of millions of live non-native animals each year. Under the current law, it takes an average of four years for the federal government to stop the importation of potentially harmful wildlife. During this time period, an animal can continue to be imported, potentially entering U.S. ecosystems, where it can spread widely, crowd out native wildlife, fundamentally alter natural systems, and spread infectious pathogens and harmful parasites.
“Representative Slaughter’s action provides a critical opportunity for Congress to close the loophole that allowed harmful invasive species like Asian carp, Burmese python, and red lionfish to enter the country,” said Dr. Bruce Stein of the National Wildlife Federation. “Enacting this bill would be one of the most significant policy advances we can make to prevent future harmful invasions.”
“For several years, Congress has considered bills that would modernize our antiquated and broken regulatory system, but the legislation has stalled,” said Mike Daulton, vice president of Government Relations for the National Audubon Society. “By acting now, Congress can save taxpayers millions of dollars a year in damages and control costs.”
Click here for a fact sheet on the economic impact of imported invasive species and diseases.
Established in 2003, the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) is a national network of 18 major conservation and environmental organizations that provides a united expert and scientific voice on invasive species policy. Its leaders include scientists, lawyers, activists, and advocates with many years of experience on invasives policy. For more information, please visit www.necis.net.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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