Distemper Outbreak in Jonesboro Causes Scare

January 10, 2007-- Posted at 10:30 pm

JONESBORO-- It's a deadly virus that could put your pet in danger.

Animal control has seen dozens of cases already, and they're hoping to put a stop to the spread of a virus they say is fatal for certain types of household pets and wild animals.

This raccoon may look cute, but he's very sick.

In fact, animal control says 15 to 20 animals... 2 to 3 raccoons per day for the last month have been plagued with a fatal virus.

"It's getting to the point where it's all over town. A lot of people are mistaking this for rabies. What we're trying to do is get out the word to people that are really scared that it's not rabies," James Bowman of Jonesboro Animal Control says.

It's not rabies but Canine distemper...a deadly virus that starts as a respiratory or intestinal infection and leads to seizures which ultimately lead to an animal's demise... and it's not just wild animals but dogs that are in danger.

"Typically in dogs you'll have one kind of seizure where the dogs look like they're chewing gum and their ears will twitch. In raccoons and foxes, they tend to have a dumb phase where they're not very aggressive. They'll come to the backyard. They'll let people pick them up," said Dr. Archie Ryan of Southwest Drive Animal Clinic.

The virus mainly effects certain animals and cannot be transmitted to humans.

"It doesn't effect cats. Mostly dogs, coyotes, raccoons and foxes would be the most common," Ryan says.

Ryan says vaccinations in dogs is very effective which includes the initial vaccine plus a booster... A vaccine can usually prevent your dog from getting the virus or dying from it.

"If the animals don't have any immunity to it or their immunity's not very good, it will get up into their nervous system and they'll die from it," Ryan says.