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Distemper Outbreak in West St. Louis County

October 2, 2012 – For Immediate Release

St. Louis Canine Distemper Outbreak

During the month of September, 2012 the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline is reporting an alarming uptick in the number of sick raccoons being reported in the West St. Louis County area.  These animals are infected with a canine neurological virus, known as ‘Distemper’.  When an animal is infected with this virus they may exhibit the following symptoms:

Difficulty walking, standing, climbing and running, stumbling aimlessly during daylight hours (drunken behavior), unafraid of pets and people, eye and nose discharge, and seizures.  While distemper does not normally cause an animal to behave aggressively, caution should be used when residents witness any wild animal acting in a way that is not normal.  Keeping pets away from wildlife is extremely important because many diseases are capable of infecting pets as well as our wild neighbors.

In the month of September, the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline has picked up twelve of these cases in the Wildwood/Chesterfield area alone.  This is up from only two cases in the same area during the month of August.  Wild Horse Creek Road appears to be the epicenter of this outbreak, although distemper cases are on the rise in many other St. Louis suburbs as well.  Residents should be aware that this disease IS contagious to dogs via saliva, urine, feces, and any direct or INDIRECT contact with an infected animal. Pet food and water dishes should be brought inside and cleaned with very hot water and soap, and dogs should be watched closely when outdoors to avoid any contact with raccoons.  Residents should also check with their veterinarian to make sure that their pet is up to date with their distemper vaccination, a separate vaccine from the Rabies shot required by law.  This virus is over 97% fatal and irreversible in dogs or raccoons once symptoms are evident.

The Bi-State Wildlife Hotline, a not for profit organization, will make house calls for sick raccoons showing symptoms of the distemper virus.  However, the protocol for these cases is humane euthanasia to end the animal’s suffering from the disease.  The Hotline does request donations of $20 or more for cases like these in order to cover the costs of transportation and veterinary services.  If residents witness a sick raccoon out during daylight hours, keep pets indoors and do not attempt to approach the animal before speaking with a wildlife specialist. Please call the Wildlife Hotline at (636) 492-1610.  The Hotline is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to assist residents with all wildlife concerns and questions.

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