Distemper virus on the rise throughout St. Joseph County

South Bend Animal Care and Control// WSBT 22

South Bend Animal Care and Control have a warning for the community. They've seen a spike in the number of raccoons showing signs and symptoms of the virus distemper.

This is especially important for pet owners because distemper is a highly contagious and deadly disease.

The only way to prevent your pet from getting it is to vaccinate.

Over the past three months, South Bend Animal Care and Control has brought in and euthanized about 60 raccoons with signs and symptoms of distemper.

Director Jenn Gobel says that's an alarming number.

"It’s very much out of the ordinary. We've had days where we've brought back almost 10 raccoons in one day. It keeps us busy, obviously it's a public safety concern to have a diseased wild animal on people's properties,” Gobel said.

Distemper is spread through direct contact from an infected animal, airborne exposure, and to puppies through the placenta of the mother.

Jennifer Anderson, a vet at Lincolnway Veterinary Clinic, says the virus does not live outside the body long but an animal can be infective for up to three months.

“The most common [symptoms] are upper respiratory ones like nasal, ocular discharge, fever, coughing. It can lead to ammonia and then in really serious cases it can actually become diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures,” said Dr. Anderson.

She says there is no treatment for distemper. They can only treat the symptoms and even then the survival rate is only 50-50.

Experts are not sure what's causing this sudden explosion of the virus but say it’s easily preventable.

"Most people think my dog is rabies vaccinated because that's required by law but sometimes they forget about some of the other smaller vaccines that are not mandatory like the parvo virus or the distemper vaccine as well,” said Gobel.

South Bend Animal Care and Control hasn't had any domestic animals comes in to the shelter with distemper. It has heard from local veterinarians who have seen pets with the disease.

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