A short distance down the road from here, the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society has been quarantined because of an apparent ringworm outbreak. There’s no information on the facility’s website and information in the press has been pretty vague (both concerning aspects), but it sounds like a ringworm outbreak. Adoptions have been ceased and the Humane Society will apparently "reassess its safety protocols by the end of the week.The outbreak appears to have been going on since at least last week, so hopefully they’re getting on this and have a strong outbreak investigation and control plan in place.

I haven’t been involved in this outbreak so I know nothing more than what is in the press, but ringworm can be a big problem in shelters. It’s a controllable disease, but the situation can get completely screwed up with a poor outbreak response. It’s also sometimes an overblown problem (or not a true problem at all) in some situations, so it’s critical that the outbreak is properly investigated and managed. That’s not always the case, and the consequences can be serious.

There are a lot of factors that go into good outbreak management that are hopefully being done at the KW Humane Society. These include:

  • Good communication both internally and externally.
  • Transparency.
  • Sound containment practices.
  • Getting good advice.
  • Actually listening to the good advice (and not bad advice).
  • Taking the time to do it right.
  • Ensuring one is acting on correct information.
  • Spending money where it needs to be spent, be it testing, treatment, personnel or other factors. Trying to save money during an outbreak response often ends up costing much more in the end.

The independent report of the 2010 ringworm debacle at the Newmarket OSPCA should be important reading for any shelter trying to figure out what to do, and what not to do.