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Parvo outbreak leads to BARCS quarantine

An outbreak of Parvovirus, a serious and highly contagious dog disease, has forced Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter to temporarily close all dog housing.

Because of the illness, the city shelter ceased adopting out dogs about a week ago. The housing areas at BARCS will be closed to both the public and volunteers until at least Feb. 14, after which adoptions will continue. The shelter remains opens to those wishing to adopt cats, which are not affected by the disease.

Jennifer Mead-Brause, executive director of BARCS, said the outbreak was traced to two dogs that owners brought in to surrender about 10 days ago. In one case, the owner was aware the dog had the disease and told shelter staff, allowing them to take proper precautions.

In the second case, it was not known that the dog had the virus.

In all, eight dogs caught the disease, which Mead-Brause says appears to have been contained.

Dogs are remaining in quarantine for another week to make sure the virus, which has a two-week incubation period, doesn’t show up again.

“We’re waiting for that and just holding our breath,” she said.

Parvovirus is a common, highly infectious and potentially fatal viral disease in dogs. It is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces.

In its intestinal form, the disease causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. In its cardiac form, it can cause respiratory or cardiovascular failure in young puppies. For puppies that have not been vaccinated or treated, the mortality rate can reach 90 percent or more.

The virus first appeared in 1978, leading to a widespread epidemic in dogs of all ages.

Mead-Brause said the single most important thing dog owners can do is make sure their pet is vaccinated. Other precautions include making sure to clean up after your dog, and not allowing your dog near feces that have not been picked up.

“Sometimes, if a dog has diarrhea in the park, an owner can’t possibly clean it all up, and the next dog that steps on it is going to automatically have it.”

The canine form of the disease is not contagious to humans.

Mead-Braus said the shelter stopped taking in dogs surrendered by owners during the outbreak, asking the owners to hold off. For dogs picked up by Animal Control, BARCS tried to find rescue groups to take in those that appeared to be at low-risk. Those that were housed at BARCS were closely monitored.

As for how the public can help, Mead-Brause said BARCS could use any donations — blankets, towels, cleaning supplies, bleach, dog food or money. Dog owners should check their vaccination records and make sure their pets are up to date. Puppies, she said, should not be allowed to interact with any other dogs until they have completed their series of Parvo vaccines.

Mead-Brause said other shelters, clinics and animal emergency rooms have also been seeing more cases of Parvo. “It’s out there, and the only way people can help control it is by vaccinating their dogs,” she said.


Comment from Jocelyn dance
Time December 26, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I purchased a pupp from puppies 234 on 12/20/10 she died 12/25/10 from parvo. It was a xmas gift for my 13 yr old she is devastated!!!!!