Date: 2004-02-25 16:43:21 UTC
Subject: RE: Did the ferrets who did not make it?
When very few individuals have an illness there is a problem with drawing any conclusions. This difficulty is increased when there is a major source for the population in general because simply because they are more common it is entirely possible that that alone WILL skew who has an illness.
I can recall back when people began being more aware of adrenal neoplasia (This is a long time ago.) that there were those who said that it was one farm (the most common source of ferrets), then farms in general, and finally all ferrets who could get it.
So, with such a rare situation and extremely few ferrets there is no way to draw conclusions. It's like the questions I asked about locations and about three separate aspects -- and I was wondering about them individually as well as separately: closeness to shores, damp vs. dry, and if the cases are not arising in places when those locations are too cold for ticks or mosquitos. Data collection is essential and something may mesh for each case, but there are certain to be things which look suggestive but which don't pan out. Often in any investigation many ideas wind up being discarded as more is known.
As a result always remember the caution: hypotheses can be useful but they are ONLY hypotheses because even though hypotheses are best based on some suggestive data the reality is that there are many patterns seen which turn out to be meaningless in any area of research.