Ringworm, rabies, parvo, feline calicivirus, & FIP challenge animal shelters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:


Reminders of the importance of disease control in animal
shelters came in April 2010 from five shelters whose staff
cumulatively euthanized more than 400 exposed animals due to disease
Most controversially, the Ontario SPCA announced on May 11,
2010 that it would kill about 350 animals due to ringworm, after
containment and treatment efforts begun on February 22 repeatedly
failed. Six workers were also infected. Tests showed that every
room at the Ontario SPCA branch shelter in Newmarket, Ontario had
become contaminated. Said Canadian Press, “The branch will undergo
a thorough cleansing and an inspection to ensure the ringworm is

The Ontario SPCA reversed course under a storm of protest on
May 13, after killing 99 animals. Ontario SPCA chair Rob Godfroy
told media that protesters took about 15 animals from the Newmarket
shelter before police restored security at the building.
“It seems out of place for the SPCA to be euthanizing such a
large number of animals,” commented International Society for
Infectious Diseases ProMed forum moderator Tam Garland. “While some
may argue that it may be humane to do this, one has to wonder since
the disease can be self-limiting, why euthanasia is the only answer
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton, in Ohio, fought a
similar outbreak in September 2009 by allowing individual foster
caregivers to treat infected animals at home. Only 10 Humane Society
of Greater Dayton animals were killed, all of them after developing
serious secondary infections. The Ontario SPCA attempted that
approach with about 90 animals early in the outbreak, Godfroy told
media, but ringworm continued to occur in the Newmarket shelter,
forcing a suspension of adoptions. The outbreak began among cats,
then spread to dogs and rabbits, said Ontario SPCA spokesperson
Roslyn Ryan.
“We have some standard protocols when there is an outbreak of
this type,” Ontario SPCA chief executive Kate Mac-Donald told
Canadian Press. “Due to human error,” MacDonald added, “the
protocols were not followed.”
Shelter manager Denise Stephenson was fired on April 30,
2010 for failing to contain the outbreak, she told Toronto Star
urban affairs reporter Gail Swainson. Stephenson insisted she had
followed Ontario SPCA protocol for disease outbreaks “to the letter.”
The outbreak was detected soon after the Toronto SPCA was
closed for six weeks of cleansing and staff retraining, by court
order, after five months of Ontario SPCA administration. The
Ontario SPCA charged seven Toronto Humane Society key personnel with
neglect and conspiracy, in part due to alleged failure to control
disease outbreaks.


The Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks, North
Dakota, on March 9, 2010 received two dogs who were found roaming
at large. Sent to a foster home in nearby Grafton on March 20, one
dog displayed rabies symptoms on March 25, and was euthanized on
March 27.
“Tissue samples tested positive for rabies. Officials were
notified on March 31,” wrote Ryan Johnson of the Grand Forks Herald.
“State veterinarian Susan Keller said the state Board of Animal
Health assessed the dogs who were at the facility from March 15 to
20, the time frame of possible contact with the rabies carrier.”
Circle of Friends executive director Arlette Moen explained to Keller
that dogs at the shelter do not have direct contact with each other,
but Keller ultimately directed that about 20 dogs who might have had
contact with saliva from the rabid dog had to be killed.
“This was even if their only contact was walking on the same
ground,” Moen told ANIMAL PEOPLE. Fourteen people who had adopted
potentially exposed dogs were given a choice between quarantining the
dogs for two weeks each or having them euthanized. Moen said she did
not know what they each decided. No other rabies cases were reported.


Parvovirus caused the Royal SPCA shelter at Townsville in
north Queensland, Australia to euthanize more than 200 dogs,
including 50 puppies, spokesperson Michael Beatty told Josh Bavas of
the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on April 12, 2010. Parvo
did not wholly engulf the shelter, which adopted out 340 animals
during the dozen weeks that the outbreak continued, Beatty said.
However, the outbreak was prolonged by arrivals of more dogs who had
The parvo variant that hit Townsville emerged between 30 and
40 years ago, and has mutated several times, said Garland.
“Recently a new strain has been reported in Europe, Asia,
and South America,” Garland warned. Parvo “is highly contagious
and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with
contaminated feces, environments or people,” Garland added. “The
virus can contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls,
collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle
infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and
drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time.
Even trace amounts of feces containing parvo may serve as
environmental reservoirs of the virus.
“All dogs are at risk,” Garland explained, “but puppies
less than four months old and dogs who have not been vaccinated
against canine parvo are at increased risk. No specific drug is
available that will kill the virus in infected dogs,” Garland said.
“Treatment is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the
dog’s immune system can fight off the infection. Treatment should be
started immediately and consists primarily of efforts to combat
dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling
vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infection. Sick dogs
should be kept warm and receive good care. Isolation of infected
dogs is necessary.”

Feline calicivirus

Nicky Ratliff, executive director of Humane Society of
Carroll County in Maryland, in late April 2010 suspended cat
adoptions for more than two weeks to combat an outbreak of feline
“Ratliff said the symptoms of the infection showed up a few
weeks ago, but shelter staff and local veterinarians thought it was
just an upper respiratory disease,” reported Carroll County Times
staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer. Ratliff et al recognized feline
calicivirus after one cat developed ulcerations in her mouth. Highly
contagious among cats, feline calicivirus can be spread by all body
secretions. The incubation period varies from one to five days,
while infected cats can shed the virus for as long as a month.
Continued Knauer, “All felines at the shelter who had the
virus have been euthanized, Ratliff said. All strays who are
brought in are immediately vaccinated. The shelter staff have been
thoroughly and continuously disinfecting the cat housing at the
As with rabies and distemper vaccinations, which protect
animals from becoming infected in the future but do not cure animals
who are already infected, vaccination against calicivirus will not
eradicate the virus in a cat who has already contracted it. A
calicivirus infection may contribute to a cat developing dental
disease years later.


In Michigan, the Shiawassee Humane Society fought feline
infectious peritonitis–an incurable, invariably fatal form of
coronavirus. About 35 cats and kittens were euthanized, board
president Robert Meihls and executive director Sandi Wright told the
Argus Press.
Posted Garland of ProMed, “Feline coronavirus operates
differently from any other feline virus. Systemic antibodies have no
protective function for the cat and may play a role in the disease
itself. Antibody titres are meaningless for diagnosis or prognosis.
A vaccine is available, but there is no consensus on its efficacy or
FIP originates as a rare mutation of feline enteric
coronavirus, known as FECV, which is common and relatively
harmless. “Recent research has shown that mutant FECV arises within
an individual cat,” Garland said. “Thus, we now know that the vast
majority of cats do not ‘catch’ FIP, but develop it themselves from
their own mutant FECV.”
Although transmission of FECV is common, Garland explained,
“Transmission of FIP from cat to cat is considered rare. This has
caused leading FIP researchers to state that cats who are ill with
FIP are unlikely to be a risk to other cats and thus do not need to
be isolated” from other cats who have already shared the same
environment for some time. However, a cat with FIP can potentially
infect other cats with FECV.
“The peak ages for losses to FIP are from six months to two
years old,” Garland said, “with the highest incidence at 10 months
of age. Age-associated immunity to FIP appears to be possible.
Transmission of FIP from a queen to her unborn kittens has not been
shown to occur.”
Preventing FIP requires preventing FECV. “Two main patterns
occur with FECV,” Garland continued. “Most cats will become
infected and recover, but will not be immune. They are susceptible
to reinfection. A small number of cats become infected but do not
recover. They become persistent shedders of FECV and are the source
of reinfection for the other cats. The key to eliminating FECV, and
thus the risk of FIP, would be the identification and removal of
chronic shedders. Currently, however, there is no easy way to
determine which cats are persistent shedders.
“FECV is spread primarily by the fecal-oral route and, to a
lesser degree, through saliva or respiratory droplets,” Garland
said. “The virus can persist in the environment in dried feces on
cat litter for three to seven weeks, so scrupulous cleaning of cages
and litter pans is important to reduce the amount of virus in the

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