Distemper outbreak reported in Niagara County

Posted at 12:26 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-15 13:14:52-04

If you have a dog or a cat at home, it's time to make sure their vaccines are up to date.

The Niagara County Sheriff's Office and the Town of Lewiston Police Department are recommending the community be on high alert after discovering multiple raccoons that were sick with distemper in Niagara County.

Officials say there have been more than 90 calls of sick raccoons since the beginning of the year, and the raccoons are affected by both canine and feline distemper.

The outbreak seems concentrated in Northwest Niagara County, in particularly the Towns of Porter and Lewiston. There have been no confirmed cases in the City of Niagara Falls.

Both canine and feline distemper are caused by viruses and can cause illness and even death in raccoons.

Canine distemper is highly contagious and starts slowly in raccoons, usually with a runny nose and watery eyes. In the final stages the raccoon may begin to wander aimlessly in a circle, disoriented and unaware of its surroundings. The animal may exhibit other bizarre behavior as a result of brain damage.

Feline distemper in raccoons begins suddenly with a high fever, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. The course of the disease is quick, usually a week with nearly 100 percent mortality.

Officials believe insects may play a role in helping both viruses spread.

Unvaccinated dogs and cats that are allowed to wander unattended are at risk of infection. Dog and cat owners should make sure their pets have been vaccinated for the disease.

Humans are not at risk from distemper as the disease cannot be passed on to people and presents no danger to humans.

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