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Distemper Outbreak Hits Burnet-Area Raccoons
The Burnet Police Department says the distemper virus is sweeping through raccoons in the area and may pose a danger to other animals.
Officials say around 15 raccoons recently picked up in the West Jackson/ Hamilton Creek River Walk area have tested positive for the virus.
Burnet police say there have been a number of dead raccoons in the same area but have not been able to confirm their cause of death.
Humans cannot contract the distemper virus, but it is highly contagious to other animals. Burnet Police are urging all dog and cat owners to have their animals vaccinated as soon as possible.
SYMPTOMS: The early symptoms of distemper in raccoons will initially appear as an upper respiratory infection, and then it can turn into pneumonia. The final stage of distemper the animal will start wander aimlessly in a circle, disoriented and unaware of its surroundings as a result of brain damage. Many of these symptoms are indistinguishable from, and therefore often mistaken for, the signs of rabies which can only be determined by laboratory testing.
TREATMENT: No treatment exists for canine or feline distemper (which is the two names of distemper for raccoons). Infected raccoons are usually euthanized. Control of the distemper outbreaks includes the removal of dead animals' carcasses, vaccination of at-risk domestic species to decrease the number of susceptible hosts, and a reduction in wildlife populations which also reduces the number of potential hosts.
PREVENTION: Unvaccinated dogs and cats that are allowed to wander unattended are at risk of infection from, as well as posing a risk of infection to, raccoons and other wildlife. HUMANS are not at risk from distemper as the disease cannot be passed on to people. Dog and cat owners should make sure their pets have been vaccinated for the disease.
Since symptoms of distemper are very similar to those of rabies, no one should approach an animal acting strangely. Call the Burnet Animal Control Officer at 830-798-3971, the Burnet Police Department at 512-756-6404, or in the event of an aggressive animal, citizens should call 9-1-1.