Distemper virus found in Brunswick County wildlife; residents warned to watch pets

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More than a dozen wild animals in Brunswick County have tested positive recently for the distemper virus.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Animal Protective Services Unit is asking the community to be sure their dogs and puppies are up to date on the distemper virus vaccine, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman Emily Flax.

Reports of animals behaving strangely prompted the sheriff’s office animal unit to request testing by the state. Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reported that more than a dozen wild animals, including foxes and raccoons, tested positive for the virus predominantly in the areas south of Supply (Holden Beach, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach).

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, canine distemper is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. The virus is usually spread by the secretions from an infected animal’s cough or sneeze.

The virus infects wild animals such as foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks and ferrets, which can each be a source of infection in pet dogs. Distemper is often a fatal virus for infected animals. If a dog survives the disease, it can cause permanent damage to a dog’s nervous system.

More information about the virus can be found on the American Veterinary Medical Association  website.