24 Confirmed Cases of Canine Parvovirus in D.C.
If you are a dog owner in Washington, DC, you may want to take extra precautions for the next few days. Reports indicate that 24 confirmed cases of canine parvovirus have been detected in the city between June and October of 2015. This rash of illness has led health officials in DC to issue a warning for dog owners to safeguard their dogs from the dangerous virus.
Parvovirus, colloquially known as ‘parvo,’ is a canine virus most commonly found in small puppies and older dogs. A gastrointestinal virus, parvo is transmitted when dogs come in contact with the waste or vomit of a dog that has also been infected. Symptoms of parvo initially involve fatigue, which then more on to lowered appetite, vomiting and blood-filled diarrhea.
Owners need not worry about their own health: parvo cannot be transmitted to humans or even other animals. While parvo can be treated, untreated cases can lead to death for dogs.
The recent focus on parvo in DC means that it is impossible to tell how long the virus has been in the city – up to August, DC’s health department was chiefly tracking the spread of rabies in dogs. According to DC Health Department spokesman Marcus Williams, small animal surveillance national standards only require cities to track rabies.
However, after August saw Rhode Island issuing an alert for parvo after a large spike in diagnoses, DC started “proactively” looking for parvo in their own dogs. The health department notes that they have also included the investigation of canine leptospirosis and influenza in their screenings.
According to Williams, local vet feedback has told the health department that there has been a rise this summer and fall in parvo, which was large enough to issue this warning. As a result, Wednesday saw the health department issue a press release which alerted the public to “an increased” rate of canine parvovirus cases since June.
Parvo is an incredibly dangerous disease, according to local veterinarian Katy Nelson, who calls it “one of the worst viruses that we face in veterinary medicine.” This current spread may have some discernable sources: “some of the pets that we’re seeing recently that are acquiring parvovirus are too young to have received the vaccine. And others are ones that have perhaps had one vaccine but not yet had their boosters …”
“So whether it’s in a dog park situation, [or] it’s in a breeder or a shelter situation, it’s these young pets that have not been fully vaccinated against it yet that are the ones that are the most susceptible.”
Nelson asks owners of dogs with immunity issues to “stay away from dog parks and other areas where they could encounter other pets’ feces … it’s probably best to just kind of keep them at home until this problem has resolved itself.”
If you find that your dog may have the symptoms of parvo, it is crucial to act immediately. “This is not one to sit on and worry about. This is one that you want to get to your veterinarian immediately.”