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Viral canine disease hits wild animals

March 10, 2012


A canine virus first discovered in the early 1900s has resurfaced in Starkville.
Starkville Animal Control reports it has picked up six wild animals in Starkville in the past two weeks, and the Mississippi State University Veterinary School has confirmed two of them to have distemper, with the other four showing symptoms of the viral disease. Starkville Animal Control is still waiting on official test results for the other four animals.
Starkville Animal Control officer Sarah Hankins said while there have been no reports of any domestic dogs in the area with the disease, it could easily happen if pets are not vaccinated.
(So far) we’ve gotten three foxes and three raccoons,” she said. “It’s preventable, but not curable. We haven’t had any reports (of domestic dogs carrying the disease), but we’re trying to get out (to pet owners) to vaccinate their animals.”
She said the cases have appeared in different parts of the city limits.
“We would like the residents of Starkville to be aware and observant,” she said. In the later stages of this disease the wildlife almost appear to be tame one minute and aggressive the next. (Affected) animals will bite.”
Starkville Animal Control officer Rich McKee said the virus is highly contagious, and is commonly found in such wild animals as skunks, foxes, raccoons, ferrets and wolves.
“It’s almost more common in wildlife these days than in domestic animals,” he said. “We’re just seeing it in wildlife right now.”
McKee said there are several ways the disease can be transmitted.
“Distemper is spread by direct contact (such as) sneezing or coughing or indirect contact (such as sharing) bedding and water bowls with an infected animal,” he said. “All precaution should be taken to prevent your dog from having contact with wildlife or any animal not vaccinated.”
Hankins said early signs of the disease are thick mucus coming from the eyes or nose, fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.
“In the later stages what we’re seeing is neurological as far as staggering,” she said.
Hankins said there have also been reports of distemper in the Miss. counties of Rankin and Lowdnes.
McKee said Starkville Animal Control asks that no one attempt to capture any wildlife that might have symptoms of distemper as this may cause the animal to attack.
Eyewitnesses of wildlife with symptoms of distemper are asked to call Starkville Animal Control at 662-769-2728.

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