Canine Distemper Virus: Outbreak in Kingston.

Since the beginning of May, the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative ON/NU (CWHC) has received a number of calls regarding sick raccoons in the city of Kingston. We reached out to a local wildlife rehabilitation centre to see if they too, noticed a spike in abnormal raccoon activity. To our surprise, Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre (SPWC) reported that they were receiving on average, 2-3 sick raccoons per day! With recent testing, we have been able to confirm that the Kingston raccoon population is experiencing a Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) outbreak.

SPWC graciously agreed to send us four of their most recent raccoon samples for post-mortem examination in our lab. The first raccoon examined had unfortunately suffered trauma, which explained its clinical signs. The remaining three raccoons all had similar symptoms (wandering aimlessly, unusual behavior, and other neurological symptoms) and all had evidence of discharge from their eyes. All three of these raccoons tested positive for CDV and had microscopic lesions consistent with CDV infection. Based on these findings, CDV was confirmed to be the cause of the clinical signs of these three raccoons. All four submitted raccoons tested negative for rabies virus.

What does this mean for the residents of Kingston and surrounding areas? Since there is currently no effective treatment for CDV, the best possible response is prevention! As seen in our last article discussing distemper posted here you can help by:

1 – Protecting our wildlife. Ontario is home to a rich abundance of wildlife that face increasing risk from disease, loss of habitat and other human activities. We can all help protect our wildlife by viewing from a distance, refraining from feeding wild animals, and supporting local initiatives that promote the coexistence of people and wildlife. In addition to reporting sick and deceased wildlife to the CWHC (Toll-free: 1-866-673-4781), please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility to help wildlife in need of medical assistance. Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you:

2 – Protecting our pets. Distemper can be fatal for our pets. That’s why it is tremendously important to keep up to date with routine vaccines as recommended by your veterinarian – vaccination is the best way to prevent CDV transmission. To prevent accidental contact with wildlife, keep cats indoors, and always keep dogs on a leash/supervised while outdoors. If you think your pet has been in direct contact with wildlife, please contact your veterinarian for advice.

3 – Protecting ourselves. It is essential to recognize that there is overlap in the clinical signs seen in animals with rabies and distemper. Both diseases affect raccoons and other species, including skunks, foxes, coyotes, badgers, fishers, and mink. Rabies virus is transmissible to humans and poses a serious health risk if there is direct contact with an infected animal. Therefore, not only is it important to keep your pets safe to protect them against both diseases, but it is also vital in protecting yourself. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies you should contact your doctor or local public health unit.

Submitted by:

Maria Alexandrou, CWHC ON/NU

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