A parvovirus outbreak has been identified at the Occupy San Francisco camp, with at least three dogs affected by the highly contagious and potentially very serious viral disease. The San Francisco SPCA has visited the camp and their temporary clinic was attended by "dozens" of dog owners (indicating lots of dogs at the camp). This is a nice proactive step to help contain the parvo outbreak and hopefully reduce the risk of transmission of various other infectious diseases amongst the animals. Some people appreciated the help. Others (probably the subset that complains about everything) accused the SPCA of spreading bad publicity to help shut down the camp. (I guess they’d rather have good press than healthy dogs.)

In many ways, it’s not too surprising. "Occupy" camps are just asking for infectious disease outbreaks, more so in people, but the same risk factors are there for dogs. Whenever you mix together lots of different individuals from different sources, put them in close and prolonged contact and have hygiene challenges, you set the scene for infectious diseases. From a canine parvovirus aspect, heavy fecal contamination from dogs defecating in a small, concentrated area and unvaccinated dogs feed the fire even more. (I don’t know for sure that the affected dogs were un- or incompletely-vaccinated, however given the excellent effectiveness of parvovirus vaccines, it’s highly likely that sick dogs were not adequately vaccinated.)

Parvo isn’t the only infectious disease problem at the camp. Kennel cough (now known as canine infectious respiratory disease complex, CIRDC) has also been identified. This syndrome, caused by a mix of bacteria, viruses and Mycoplasma, has greater potential to spread widely because some of these bugs are highly contagious and vaccination coverage in the population will be lower than for parvo. A large-scale kennel cough outbreak is quite likely if there is kennel cough activity at the camp.

What can you do to reduce the risk, whether it’s while "occupying" or during your daily activities?

  • Have your puppy vaccinated as per your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • Don’t take unvaccinated puppies to areas where there will be lots of other dogs. "Unvaccinated" includes puppies who have not had their full initial series of vaccines.
  • If your dog is sick, don’t take it out in the public, especially to places where other dogs will be present.
  • If your dog gets sick during a public event, take it away promptly to reduce the risk of it infecting other dogs.
  • Don’t let healthy skepticism grow to paranoia, and don’t let political squabbles interfere with proper healthcare… both human and veterinary.