Mississippi Board of Animal Health warns of increase in distemper cases

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A highly contagious and deadly virus among wild animals and canines is reportedly spreading quickly across Mississippi.
Since 2013, the Mississippi Board of Animal Health has received increasing reports of cases of canine distemper virus in wild animals, puppies and adult dogs, an MBAH release states.
Dogs are not the only animals vulnerable to the serious virus. Raccoons, foxes, wolves and skunks are also susceptible, PetMD.com states.
According to the release, canine distemper virus is similar to rabies, and can lead to eventual death if the animal is not treated.
The virus is spread through the air, so it can impact an animal even with indirect contact. It starts by affecting the tonsils of the animal and eventually spreads to the respiratory system, the release states. In the initial stages, infected animals might suffer from high fever, reddened eyes and an abnormally watery discharge from the nose and eyes. An infected dog might also show symptoms of lethargy, persistent coughing, diarrhea and possibly vomiting. Certain strains of the virus can also cause a dog’s paw pads to enlarge and thicken.
In the later stages, the disease attacks the host’s nervous system. The worst cases of canine distemper involve infected animals having seizures, paralysis and attacks of hysteria after the disease makes it to the animal’s brain and spinal cord, the release states. Death can occur two to five weeks after infection.
Dogs that have not been immunized, improperly attenuated vaccinated dogs and dogs with bacterial infections of the respiratory system have a high risk of contracting the disease.
In 2013, only six dogs tested positive for the canine distemper virus. So far in 2017 even more dogs have tested positive for the disease, 46 dogs, than the entire year of 2016, 30 dogs, Dr. Lifang Yan of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine said.
Although there is no cure for the virus, veterinarians can treat the symptoms and also provide vaccinations that can help prevent animals from contracting the disease after being in close contact with an infected wild animal or canine, the release states.
Any animal diagnosed with the virus should be isolated so the virus does not spread, according to the release.

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