Outbreak News Today

‘Swimmer’s itch’ parasite, duck ramps and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

In mid-May, The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) collaborated with City Wildlife, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick, orphaned and injured wild animals in Washington, D.C., to help the Capitol Hill ducklings by creating a “duck ramp” so they could get in-and-out of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Anne Lewis, the president of City Wildlife, said a ramp could be the difference between life and death for the ducklings. “Ducklings get into the water—often helped there by visitors—and then can’t get out because of the high curb at the water’s edge,” she said in an email. “They will drown from exhaustion or die of starvation unless they have a way to get out of the water.”

You may remember the firestorm that was created when Republican North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker tweeted that the ramp was “government waste” and was harshly criticized by people on Twitter and several news outlets.

It is not clear what the duck ramps cost, but I suspect it is more than the $20 one tweeter said.

About three weeks have past since the duck ramps were put up and starting today the National Park Service will drain the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool for cleaning.

Why?

Beginning May 20 and 21, approximately 80 ducklings have been found deceased in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Necropsy performed on the ducks by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center suggests the cause of death was high levels of parasites that develop and grow in snails (avian schistosomes) that live in the pool. Chemical treatments alone are not sufficient to fully reduce the parasite and snail population, so the pool must be drained and cleaned.

Avian schistosomes represent a diverse number of trematode species that parasitize birds.

Humans who come in contact with the parasite could develop “swimmer’s itch” (cercarial dermatitis), an allergic reaction in the form of a skin rash; it is not contagious and rarely requires medical treatment.

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