A very poorly-written and confusing report suggests that another Streptococcus zooepidemicus outbreak is underway in dogs in a shelter in Ohio. Five of 175 dogs on the premises died suddenly of hemorrhagic pneumonia. The report variably mentioned a "virus that mutated from horses," that it’s thought to be "not contagious" despite multiple dogs being affected, and that it’s a "rare form of streptococcus" (a bacterium). Presumably, they are dealing with a group of dogs with Streptococcus zooepidemicus pneumonia (technically, Streptococcus equi var. zooepidemicus). This bacterium predominantly lives in horses but periodically causes infections in other species. Outbreaks in dogs are uncommon but have been reported in other shelters. I assume that cultures from the dead dogs identified the bacterium, otherwise other possible causes such as canine influenza would also have to be considered.

The statement about it not being contagious is bizzare. Obviously, it is contagious between dogs. It may have been referring to dog-to-human transmission, but while that’s rare it has been reported.

The shelter is apparently treating all dogs with penicillin prophylactically (i.e. to prevent any more dogs from getting sick). There’s no clear guidelines regarding management of S. zooepidemicus outbreaks in kennels. It’s now known whether mass antibiotic treatment does anything helpful, but it has been used in other outbreaks. I think it’s likely that these outbreaks stop on their own, rather than penicillin having a major impact, and that there’s probably another underlying cause such as a viral infection to account for outbreaks of this rare disease. However, that’s just speculation for now. Hopefully this outbreak will cease with whatever treatment and infection control measures they put in place (or on it’s own). Hopefully a good review of routine infection control practices will be performed at the same time, as routine practices (or lack thereof) are often a major problem in shelters.