The Waynesboro Police Department is issuing an alert from the Animal Control Officer (ACO) of a distemper outbreak that has been discovered in the city’s fox population. In late November, the Department began receiving citizen complaints of foxes exhibiting strange behavior. Last week, the ACO received affirmation of the disease from the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study who conducted necropsies on three fox carcasses sent in by the Department. So far 18 grey foxes have either gotten sick and died from distemper or have been euthanized by the Police Department after displaying signs of distemper. These foxes have been found citywide including neighborhoods off North Delphine Avenue, Pelham Drive, North Charlotte Avenue, and Lyndhurst Road near Coyner Springs Park and areas near the Waynesboro Town Center.
Besides foxes, other wild animals, including skunks, raccoons, bears and coyotes, can also be infected with the virus. The virus is spread in respiratory secretions during coughing and sneezing but can also be found in vomit and urine. This type of Viral Distemper is contagious to dogs but is most severe and common in puppies and old dogs, which can get infected if a diseased wild animal passes through a yard or areas like the dog park at Coyner Springs and leaves secretions in the form of vomit, urine, etc. Also, dogs can get infected by simply sniffing the area where the virus is present. However, the virus does not live long outside the diseased animal. After minutes, or sometimes hours, of being outside the virus is no longer contagious.
The Police Department suggests the following precautions to dog owners:
• Do not let your dog run at large even at areas where this practice is legal in the city, like the dog park at Coyner Springs.
• Be alert for wild animals in your neighborhoods. Animals that infected with distemper act aggressively and display odd behavior.
• Get their pet(s) vaccinated for distemper or verify that it is current with veterinary offices.
• If a citizen observes a wild animal that could be infected with distemper they are encouraged to call the Waynesboro Emergency Operations Center at (540) 942-6701.