Shelter Medicine: The Importance of Isolation
Reflections on rabies and other infectious diseases
Last spring, I kept an eye on the investigation—by the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—of a rabies case that affected a North Dakota shelter.
According to the CDC’s case report, two strays were brought to the shelter and placed together in an intake area for a five-day holding period, per standard protocol and in keeping with city ordinance.
On day 6, the dogs were placed in the general population and made available for adoption. On day 10, one dog was pulled and euthanized for behavior issues, and on day 11 the other dog was sent to a foster home. On day 16, this dog began vomiting and showing lack of balance. Two days later, the foster family brought the dog to the shelter for a veterinary exam.
Because of the clinical signs—including muscle tremors, wobbliness, and dilated pupils—the dog was euthanized, and rabies testing was performed. Three days later, laboratory diagnosis confirmed rabies virus, and the North Dakota Department of Health launched a public health investigation. All employees, volunteers, and visitors to the shelter or foster home, as well as other dogs in the shelter who could have been exposed, were considered in the investigation.