Parvo in the park

A park in Orange County, Florida has been closed because a dog with canine parvovirus was found in the park.  Canine parvovirus is a potentially serious infection in dogs (mainly puppies) that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, it can be fatal.  Proper vaccination against parvovirus is critical for puppies. In Orange County, they have closed the park because of concerns about parvovirus transmission. The have also apparently "bleached the dog park".

Parvovirus can live for a very long time in the environment, however disinfecting an outdoor environment is not only impractical, it's impossible! We can disinfect clean, smooth surfaces like sealed ceramic floors and smooth countertops, but we can't disinfect outdoor environments with permeable, porous surfaces and abundant organic debris (dirt). Bleach is not active in the presence of organic debris, and porous surfaces allow bacteria and viruses to escape contact with disinfectants. So, while it's good to see that they are concerned about disease transmission, this particular aspect of their control efforts isn't going to be effective.

Parvovirus exposure is an ever-present risk in areas where multiple dogs congregate. The virus can be shed in the stool of even healthy-looking dogs. In this situation (like all others) the emphasis should be on keeping high-risk dogs (e.g. unvaccinated puppies) out of these areas, not closing the park altogether and attempting to disinfect it. Parvovirus vaccination is very effective, and properly vaccinated adult dogs are quite low risk. Prompt removal of stool by dog owners helps reduce the risk further by decreasing the risk of environmental contamination. Therefore, the three most important control measures are:

  • Ensure puppies are properly vaccinated.
  • Keep puppies out of areas visited by numerous dogs until they have been fully vaccinated.
  • Scoop poop.

And since the focus of this site is zoonotic diseases, remember that canine parvovirus is not transmissible to peopleHuman parvovirus infection (Fifth disease) is caused by a completely different virus.

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Ark Lady - February 14, 2009 11:57 AM

Another good post with common sense tips but I wonder how can you actually motivate people to take action?

Where I live, adjacent to the wilderness, people still let their dogs roam freely to poop anywhere they please.

Also, hikers feel like letting their dogs roam off the trails--and not cleaning up after them--is okay.

We have coyotes and raccoons that periodically pick up disease from these careless, and sometimes self-centered people.

You might have already seen the article about the DNA use in a Israeli city--if not, here is the link:

If you have any good suggestions, let me know!

Scott Weese - February 14, 2009 7:19 PM

Certainly, compliance is the biggest barrier to effective infection control, be it handwashing by physicians or poop-scooping in a park. I don't have any illusions that everyone will suddenly start doing what they are supposed to do, but hopefully with time, increased education and peer-pressure, things will improve.

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