Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Virus that Never Dies?

Carrie Allan/HSUSI guess you could say I was lucky: I got through six years as an animal control officer without encountering an outbreak of parvo at my shelter. True, I was called out now and then to pick up a sick puppy, usually a sad little unvaccinated scrap of a creature for whom euthanasia was the only solace I could provide. Afterwards, I scrubbed and sprayed my truck until my throat was sore and my eyes watered from the disinfectant fumes. I was terrified by the tales I heard of past years when parvo had made its way into the shelter itself and total depopulation was required to bring the disease under control. I was determined not to be responsible for such a disaster.

My luck lasted almost six months into my employment as a shelter veterinarian, but it finally ran out one late Friday afternoon (after almost all the staff had gone home, of course). We had finished up spay/neuter surgery for the day and the last of our patients were groggily coming around, ready to be transported back to their kennels. Among our surgery patients was a litter of nine roly-poly rottweiler-mix puppies, transferred from another shelter a couple of weeks earlier. I was writing up my records when a technician wandered in to tell me one of the puppies had broken with diarrhea. Just to be on the safe side, we decided to run a parvo “snap” test. The blue dot indicating a strong positive result was quick to appear, and I stared down at it in horror, thinking about all the places and people these puppies had had contact with during their brief stay at the shelter.