Canine Distemper Outbreak Reported

ASSATEAGUE – National Park Service officials last week warned of a canine distemper outbreak among some racoons at the Assateague Island National Seashore.

A recent outbreak of canine distemper has been reported in racoons near the bayside campgrounds at the Assateague Island National Seashore. One racoon has already tested positive and several others have shown clinical signs and are still awaiting test results, according to Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) officials.

It’s important to note the virus does not affect humans. However, domestic dogs, as well as other mammalian wildlife species – for example, foxes, skunks and otters – can become infected with the highly-contagious virus. AINS officials are urging visitors to the barrier island to take precautions against the highly contagious virus.

Again, there is no concern for human infections, but those visiting the island with pets are urged to remember some important guidelines. For example, prior to visiting the park, ensure dogs are current on their vaccines for canine distemper, along with rabies and other infectious diseases that can be transmitted from wildlife on the barrier island.

In addition, it’s important to keep pets on at least a six-foot leash at all times while visiting the barrier island and potentially interacting with wildlife. Always dispose of trash in secure bins and dumpsters to avoid attracting wildlife to camping areas and other areas where humans and their pets visit.

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It’s also important to remove food and water sources for racoons in populated areas, including pet bowls. That will help reduce areas where potentially-infected racoons can congregate and transmit the virus to other animals.

It’s important to note racoons are generally nocturnal, so it’s important to feed dogs and other domestic animals before dusk, and remove their food and water bowls shortly thereafter. It should go without saying, visitors are reminded to not attempt to feed, touch or handle wildlife on the barrier island.

As always, if one sees wildlife in distress or behaving unusually in the park, notify Assateague Island National Seashore staff or campground hosts, who are trained to handle those situations. If one’s pet comes into contact with a potentially-infected animal, they are urged to seek assistance from their nearest veterinarian. Canine distemper is a highly-contagious disease caused by a paramyxovirus. It is a widespread disease affecting wild and domestic carnivores and primarily affects racoons, grey foxes and skunks in the spring and fall.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.