TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An animal health official says the state is assisting Emporia with keeping a virus out of its shelter.
The city is using a temporary shelter at the Lyon County Fairgrounds due to an illness outbreak at the Emporia Animal Shelter that's reportedly killed 60 dogs since February.
Dr. Michael Faurot of the Kansas Animal Facilities Inspection Program told 13 News on Wednesday that at least one animal at the Emporia shelter tested positive for distemper. He said the state is assisting with a voluntary quarantine, as well as a review of the shelter's vaccine protocol and sanitation plans to prevent any future outbreaks.
Faurot says the state was informed of the Emporia situation September 18 and visited the next day. As to why the state wasn't notified earlier since the situation dates back several months, Faurot says shelters are not required to report distemper. Plus, he says, respiratory illnesses are fairly common in shelters and it's possible staff did not immediately realize the condition with which it was dealing.
Faurot says many facilities will voluntarily inform the state of distemper cases. For example, officials at Helping Hands Humane Society confirm they had a case in early September at the Topeka Shelter. Executive Director Bill Acree told 13 News staff quarantined the area of the shelter in which the dog was housed for three weeks until a veterinarian gave them the all-clear.
With reporting not a requirement, Faurot says it is difficult to say whether distemper is more prevalent this year. He says veterinarians are telling the state they appear to be seeing an increase in cases, but that could simply be due to more awareness and better testing.
Faurot says Kansas State University continues to test, but it appears it is a known distemper strain for which animals can be vaccinated, and not a mutated strain.
Faurot says the state is aware of no active cases at shelters right now. He added the situation in Emporia underscores that distemper is a vaccine-preventable disease. He says owners should make sure their pets are up to date on shots.