Caldwell Co: Fail, Six Ways from Sunday

In the face of feline disease outbreak in a shelter, when is it appropriate to kill every exposed cat in the place?  How about never?  Does never work for you?  It works for me.

The Caldwell Co pound in NC had several cats die.  Preliminary testing on two of them indicated Calicivirus.  Then the story gets weird:

More samples were sent off for extensive tests and those results are not back yet. The virus is usually passed though the air from cat to cat, said Veterinarian Dr. John Thuss. “It normally is just a moderate illness, sort of like the flu in humans,” he said.
Thuss thinks there could be other factors involved in this case but cannot be sure until all the test results are back.

The Koret Shelter Medicine Program has an information sheet on Calicivirus:

Feline calicivirus is shed primarily in saliva and oculonasal discharge, but can be found in all body secretions during acute disease. Although FCV can be spread by droplets sneezed out to a distance of ~ 4 feet, true aerosol transmission of FCV is unlikely.

If Dr. Thuss believed the disease that was killing cats at the pound was transmitted by air, it wasn’t Calicivirus.  This underscores the need for the additional test results.  One area where Koret and Dr. Thuss are in sync is the potential involvement of other factors.  Again from the Koret information sheet:

The obvious first step in deciding whether outbreak control measures are necessary is to definitely diagnose FCV and rule out other common causes of the observed signs, such as feline panleukopenia. Even if FCV is a contributing factor, the outbreak can often be resolved by controlling the co-factor, which may be more amenable to intervention. […]

I can’t stress this enough: the vast majority of suspected [Virulent Systemic Feline Calicivirus] cases or outbreaks we are contacted about turn out to have another primary cause such as panleukopenia, disinfectant toxicity, or the cumulative effects of severe crowding, poor sanitation, problems with air quality and rampant disease from many causes adding up to a picture that looks a lot like VS-FCV.

So additional testing is critical to determine the true cause of the illness so that informed treatment decisions can be made.  Koret adds:

In the meantime, of course, affected and exposed cats should be isolated as with any possibly infectious outbreak.

Sounds like a reasonable plan.  Instead, the Caldwell Co pound killed all the “exposed” cats (exposed to air?), stopped accepting cats from the community and cleaned the cages (and I guess, the air?).  All this before the needed test results were back.  No informed decisions, no isolation, no treatment – just needless killing.  And then they started taking in cats again – before the test results were back.

So Caldwell Co never knew what they were dealing with, killed 15 cats anyway, closed their doors to community cats in need, then re-opened, still ignorant of which virus(es) may have been killing cats in their facility.

If you watch the video at the link, the pound apparently houses cats in dog runs, which has got to increase the stress level for the cats and weaken their ability to fight disease.  Oh and the coup de grace:  the shelter says the public is at fault for not vaccinating their cats.  No mention from the shelter on whether they vaccinate all cats upon intake, as per standard disease prevention protocol.

(Thank you Lisa for the link.)

10 thoughts on “Caldwell Co: Fail, Six Ways from Sunday

  1. All of my cats went through a period of “not eating today, thanks” (some kind of virus, I suspect) and I took the one who concerned me the most to the vet for fluids and assessment. A day and a half later, he’s sneezing his head off, raspy breathing, goopy eyes, the works. He picked up something ELSE viral at the vet’s office, poor guy. He got supportive care and started to recover and I was not concerned until a second cat starts up with the symptoms – THAT cat got isolated (bedroom, vaporizer running 24/7) and is getting supportive care (syringing water into him, turkey baby food with added taurine, etc.).

    The first cat (or Patient Zero, as I’ve been lovingly calling him) is no longer contagious (and spunky as all get out and eating like a horse to make up for lost time). The second cat is still sneezing his head off and has runny eyes, so he’s still “on vacation” in his spa room. I’m hoping that by isolating him, the others will not get the bug. I’m also very careful to wash my hands and change my shirt after I’ve been cuddling with Sneezyface to try to avoid being a fomite in the works. I really, really don’t need my FIV+ outdoor feral guy getting this…

    I suppose I could have just killed them all when the second cat started sneezing and then bleached down the house and all exposed surfaces, but that seemed like a lot of work. I took the lazy way out and isolated and offered supportive care.

    1. And you *improvised* an isolation room when you didn’t actually have one paid for by taxpayers. That is SO lazy.

      On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 11:17 AM, YesBiscuit!

      1. I know, right? I cheaped out bigtime. I really should have just killed them all because I don’t have a separate airspace with negative air pressure and bioscrub filters. I also don’t have a UV airlock to protect the rest of the household (or the neighborhood! Think of the children!).

        Even my raised dishes (because when you have sinus pain, bending down to eat or drink is not attractive) are just upside-down bowls with dishes set on top of them. Lazy AND amateurish.

        But, I’m just a member of the irresponsible public, so what do you want from me? I mean, I’m washing my hands after handling a sick cat to try and prevent the spread of disease, for heaven’s sake. Clearly I’m not as knowledgeable or capable as the “professionals” in Caldwell Co.

      2. Upside-down bowls with dishes on them is why shelters HAVE TO kill animals!

        On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM, YesBiscuit!

      3. Arg! I’M THE PROBLEM!

        Killing is obviously the solution. Luckily, some shelters are very good at it. Very, very good. In fact, you could almost say that killing IS their profession…

  2. I am sick and so very saddened and angry with this news. UGH – Neanderthals. No conclusive test results to warrant the killing.
    A year ago I had what I thought was Canine Influenza Virus at my facility in Montgomery County, TN. As the then AC Director – it was a tough one to weather because the testing for this virus is only done at one university in the country and it takes days. I called in my partner vets and asked who would donate blood work to us for every other damned Canine virus we could be seeing and that the county would pay for the CVI testing and shipping. They stepped up right away. In 24 hours we knew what we did not have and we also knew some things we would never have known…like the facility had a super Bordatella strain, heavily concentrated and that there was overgrowth of E Coli as well.

    I met with my then superior – the Mayor and her Admin Head – they thought we should simply kill everything, continue taking in animals, and then clean as we could. OMG. After much talk – we closed for 3 days. Got the test results back. It was not CVI. It was a mutated strain of pneumonia with E Coli in the bronchial systems of the deceased dogs…We cleaned totally for 3 days. Had the HVAC system scrubbed to. From that point on – all cleaning people work provided rubber boots and scrubs…changing only in the laundry room. Etc Etc Etc. New protocols are almost always good in situations like this.

    My staff thought I was nutzo. So did my superiors. The vets and the rescues thanked me for it. Sadly – the only qualification to be an ACO in most of the country is a GED. I have nothing against GEDs – but at some point we must push to have people in these positions that can atleast address some complex problem solving and leadership and education.


  3. How is it the “public’s fault for not vaccinating” when “At best, vaccines against FCV do not protect against infection or establishment of a carrier state, though ideally they will mitigate the severity of disease”!!!!!


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