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Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is urging pet owners to get their pets vaccinated in light of new information suggesting that distemper virus and canine flu are more prevalent among wild-animal populations.
The agency said it has noted a substantial increase in disptemper virus in raccoons in particular.
The distemper virus affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory and nervous systems of dogs. Symptoms can include nasal and eye discharge, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and tremors. Death can occur from secondary pneumonia or non-responsive seizure activity.
“This year, 56 percent of raccoons that have been necropsied have been positive for the canine distemper virus," Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control Administrator Donna Alexander said. "This exceeds the 46 percent experienced in 2004, the last year of a distemper epidemic in pet dogs in Cook County. The canine distemper virus occurs in the raccoon and coyote populations to varying degrees, and we believe that the numbers we have received so far this year warrant a precautionary warning.”
The agency also has tracked 16 cases of canine flu in Cook County since the beginning of February.
To protect against both illnesses, agency officials are advocating vaccination, regular vet visits and minimized social interaction between unknown pets.