Local News

Distemper outbreak closes Wayne animal shelter

Posted April 12, 2012 2:23 p.m. EDT

— The Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center will close for several weeks after puppies infected with distemper were brought into the shelter this week, officials said Thursday.

Although there will be no dogs accepted from pet owners and no adoptions from the center for the next three weeks, staff will continue to pick up stray animals, officials said.

“We don’t want to take any chances with this spreading,” Wayne County Animal Control Director Vicki Falconer said in a statement. “That’s why we decided to close the shelter for the next few weeks. We will spend the time cleaning the building and scrubbing the porous surfaces every day.”

The distemper virus spreads through aerosol droplets and through contact with infected bodily fluids from six to 22 days after exposure. It can also be spread by food and water contaminated with these fluids.

The virus is destroyed by routine cleaning with disinfectants. It does not survive in the environment for more than a few hours at room temperature but can survive for a few weeks in shady environments.

Shelter staffers are working with local veterinarians to determine the scope of the infection and the best way to manage the outbreak. Dogs at the shelter exhibiting symptoms of distemper will have to be euthanized, but healthy dogs will not be euthanized, officials said.

Distemper can be avoided if pet owners vaccinate their animals, and the shelter routinely vaccinates dogs upon arrival, officials said, adding that the vaccine doesn't work if an animal is already infected but doesn't show symptoms.