Brain Cancer-Causing Virus Strikes West Coast Raccoons
An outbreak of a previously unknown virus that causes fatal brain cancer in raccoons has been detected in northern California and southern Oregon.
Tumors and the new virus were found in 10 raccoons autopsied between March 2010 and May 2012. Nothing like them had been seen before in raccoons, in which tumors are very rare.
There’s no reason to think the virus could be contagious to humans. Its emergence does, however, raise fascinating questions about how it evolved and whether patterns of suburban development actually fueled its rise.
“We need to understand how infectious pathogens are empowered by global changes,” said veterinary pathologist Patty Pesavento of the University of California, Davis, leader of the team studying the new disease, which was reported in the January issue of Emerging Infectious Disease. “If there’s a new niche, pathogens will find it.”