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Berkeley Co. animal control under voluntary parvovirus quarantine

November 29, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • A sign on the front door of the Berkeley County Animal Control building on Queen Street in Martinsburg, W.Va., warns about the parvovirus quarantine that was issued Monday.
Photo by Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An outbreak of canine parvovirus at Berkeley County (W.Va.) Animal Control on South Queen Street has forced the county to quarantine the kennel, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday.

About 12 dogs have been exposed to the disease in a “buildingwide infection,” but it is unclear how many, if any, dogs will need to be euthanized, Lt. Willie Johnson said.

The sheriff’s department oversees county animal control.

The agency is not associated with the Berkeley County Humane Society, said Shari Persad, humane society president. Currently, the humane society does not have any cases of parvovirus, she said.

What caused the infectious outbreak is unknown, Johnson said.

Canine parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is an extremely contagious and potentially fatal canine disease that is transmitted by direct exposure to feces containing the virus or through contact with an affected animal.

A dog that has contracted the disease will usually exhibit extreme diarrhea that is frequently bloody and very foul smelling, vomiting, lethargy and will become dehydrated.

If untreated, the disease is frequently fatal.

Dogs younger than 6 months, and older, frail dogs are the most susceptible to contracting parvo.

While parvovirus is deadly to animals, it poses no danger to people.

The disease can survive on inanimate objects such as clothing, food pans and kennels, so exposure to anything that has come into contact with the virus can potentially spread the disease.

“Bringing an animal to the kennel now is as good as shooting it,” Johnson said, detailing the severity of the situation at the animal control kennel.

While the disease can be treated if caught early enough, Johnson said treatment comes with a hefty per-dog price tag, which the taxpayer-funded kennel cannot afford.

To protect the public and prevent the spread of the disease, the county’s animal control facility was put under a voluntary quarantine Monday, according to a sheriff’s department news release.

Until the quarantine is lifted, no animal can be released to or recovered from the kennel, Johnson said. The building also will be disinfected, the release said.

Quarantining the kennel should also prevent members of the public from picking up the disease and bringing it home to family pets, he said.

Johnson said the sheriff’s department hopes to resolve the situation by the end of the week.

However, it will not reopen until the department is certain the virus has been eliminated, and the building is cleared by a veterinarian and the county’s animal control officers, the release said.

Veterinarians can test to determine if a dog has parvo and can vaccinate pets against the virus.

Washington County Humane Society experienced an outbreak of parvo in September. As of early October, 10 dogs at the Hagerstown shelter had been euthanized since the virus was discovered there, the humane society said previously.

At the time, Paul Miller, executive director of the Washington County Humane Society, blamed the outbreak, in part, on the bad economy, with owners not vaccinating dogs against the disease due to the expense involved.

In October, with the help of a grant, Washington County established a voucher program to assist its residents in covering the costs of inoculation.

Berkeley County Animal Control does not offer financial assistance to residents for vaccinations, Johnson said.

The Berkeley County Humane Society also does not offer a program to help owners with the cost of vaccinations, Persad said.

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