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Frog specialists worry about a deadly fungus found here

Date Posted: 2007-04-06

A potentially lethal fungus affecting amphibians has been discovered in at least four frogs at Okinawa locations.

Health officials say four frogs were found to have the deadly chytrid fungus among Okinawa frogs tested. The fungus, which was first discovered in Tokyo last December, has spread to Okinawa.

Yumiko Une, an associate professor at the Azabu University School of Veterinary Medicine, says “The possibility of the fungus spreading in Okinawa cannot be denied.”

Fourteen frogs were checked in January and February here in Okinawa, she says, and they found four frogs of two species to be infected. One other is being investigated for a positive reading. The fungus, which affects only amphibians, is causing fears in the medical community because it has been wiping out frogs around the world.

Une says the fungus can cause 100% mortality, but thus far has been detected only in frogs at pet shops on Okinawa. It has not been detected in wild frogs, so far, but the Environment Ministry is urging pet shops, schools and others to handle frogs carefully. More tests are planned, leaving pet shops and pet owners worried. Some pet stores have stopped selling frogs.

Authorities are teaming with veterinary experts now to increase vigilance in the islands, and are being cautious against the chytrid fungus spreading in the Nansei Islands, home to many endangered species of indigenous frogs.

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