08/13/12 — Suspected distemper forces center to close for 10 days

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Suspected distemper forces center to close for 10 days

By From staff reports
Published in News on August 13, 2012 1:46 PM

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A suspected case of distemper has convinced Wayne County officials to close the Animal Adoption and Education Center temporarily.

A suspected case of canine distemper discovered Friday forced the county to close its Animal Adoption and Education Center through the first of next week.

It is the second time in less than four months that the center has been closed because of the disease that county officials say has been a problem statewide this summer.

The Friday decision came after someone who adopted a dog from the shelter in late June or early July told county officials late last week that they believe it may have distemper.

"It's possible that the animal has another illness, because distemper can exhibit the same symptoms as other diseases, such as parvo," said Vicki Falconer, the director of the center.

After receiving the report, the other dogs at the shelter were checked, and one was found with symptoms consistent with distemper, as well as symptoms consistent with other viruses, she said.

"To err on the side of caution, we euthanized the dog and decided to close the center for 10 days," she said.

The North Carolina State Lab will test the animal to determine if it had distemper. The results of the testing are not expected until the end of the week.

No dogs will be accepted from pet owners and no adoptions made from the center during the 10-day period. However, the staff will handle animal issues on an emergency basis, Mrs. Falconer said.

Dogs currently at the shelter that exhibit symptoms of distemper will have to be euthanized, she said.

The center was closed for three weeks from late April until early May following an outbreak of the fatal and highly contagious viral disease. That outbreak that was traced to eight puppies that were brought into the shelter -- three died from distemper and five were euthanized.

Approximately 12 dogs were euthanized during the first week the shelter was closed because they exhibited symptoms of distemper.

Canine distemper attacks a dog's tonsils and lymph nodes and then the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. There is no known cure. Newborn puppies are especially susceptible to the disease.

It does not affect cats.

The disease spreads through aerosol droplets and through contact with infected bodily fluids including nasal and ocular secretions, feces and urine from six to 22 days after exposure. It can also be spread by food and water contaminated with these fluids.

The virus is destroyed in the environment by routine cleaning with disinfectants, detergents, or drying. It does not survive in the environment for more than a few hours at room temperature, but can survive for a few weeks in shady environments.

Staff at the Animal Adoption and Education Center follow strict protocols to minimize potential outbreaks, including administering distemper vaccinations upon intake, Mrs. Falconer said.

However, if an animal is already infected, but is not exhibiting symptoms, a vaccination is not effective.

"We don't want to take any chances with this spreading," she said. "We will spend the time cleaning the building and scrubbing the porous surfaces every day."

Distemper can be avoided if pet owners vaccinate their animals, but it remains a problem across the United States -- mainly in rural areas, she said.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, outbreaks of canine distemper are caused by the overpopulation of dogs and the irresponsibility of pet owners.

"We need responsible pet owners. Not only are we always telling people the importance of vaccinations, we are also stressing the need for spaying and neutering your pets," Mrs. Falconer said.