Humans can carry distemper virus, communicate it to pets

An incident with a raccoon suffering distemper led to a second-hand warning about an unspecified virus when Toronto police re-broadcast information from Toronto Animal Control on Sunday. It is now said a raccoon captured at St. Clair Ave East and Danforth Rd. was suffering from distemper, but was not rabid. For humans, the information is concerning because while distemper will not make humans ill it can make them carriers of the distemper virus which may then be communicated to pets. Here is an extract from Vetinfo describing this concern.


“Distemper is closely linked with the measles virus in humans. The two diseases are so similar, in fact, that it is speculated by medical historians and pathologists that the measles virus may have mutated at some point and spread to dogs. Because of this close link between the two, human beings can be infected with the canine distemper virus. However, an important thing to note is that, while the virus can successfully replicate in the human system, it produces no illness and no symptoms. Unfortunately, this does mean that you can be a carrier of the disease and that you, as a human, can then pass the distemper virus on to your pets. Therefore, if you’ve previously owned a pet that suffered from distemper, it’s a good idea to ensure that any pet that you get later on be vaccinated against the disease before it comes into your home, just in case you might pass distemper on to it.”

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