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The Virus that Never Dies?

Parvovirus is a persistent microscopic beast that can endure in the environment for months or even years. But there are ways to stop it in its tracks and keep it from infecting your shelter population.

Parvovirus is a persistent microscopic beast that can endure in the environment for months or even years. But there are ways to stop it in its tracks and keep it from infecting your shelter population.

Carrie Allan/HSUS
I 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.

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