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First vaccination drive against deadly parvovirus a success

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Saving lives: Veterinary nurse Amanda Batista examines a dog during yesterday’s vaccination drive against canine parvovirus at Bull’s Head car park. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Dr Laura Tucker examines a dog at the vaccination drive against canine parovirus at Bull’s Head car park yesterday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Veterinary nurse Caroline Hobson left, holds a dog while Dr Jennifer Fullerton administers a vaccination as part of the drive drive against canine parvovirus at Bull’s Head car park yesterday. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Dr Erin Jackson, left, and veterinary nurse Chelsea Powell, right, administer a vaccination as part of the drive against canine parvovirus at Bull’s Head car opark yesterday. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A vaccination clinic set up yesterday to tackle an outbreak of canine parvovirus was successful but much work remains, a veterinarian has said.

Laura Tucker, president of the Bermuda Veterinary Association, said 154 dogs were brought to the clinic at Bull’s Head car park yesterday, adding that it was unknown how many dogs there are in total in Bermuda.

The cases of parvovirus, a gastrointestinal disease that can result in death in just a few days, have tripled over the last month. Dr Tucker said the latest estimate is that there are around 40 to 50 cases in Bermuda.

Dr Tucker said: “It all went quite well – we had a fairly good turnout.

“We’d have liked to have seen a lot more of our target audience - the pitbull population – we haven’t seen a huge amount turn out and they are the ones are mostly getting sick.

“We did get a number of patients that had already been vaccinated or were too young – dogs must be six weeks old to receive the vaccination.

“There were also some dogs that turned up sick and we cannot vaccinate them when they are sick.”

There were two veterinarians and two nurses working at the clinics as well as four volunteers. The SPCA was on hand to provide administrative services.

What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus was unknown before the late 1970s, when it appeared and quickly spread worldwide.

A gastrointestinal virus, it has spread into variants, with the most severe, known as CPV2, capable of killing dogs within days.

Sick dogs are treated for dehydration, but the virus can also damage intestines and bone marrow, requiring dogs to be kept in veterinary hospital.

Dr Tucker added: “The government and the Bermuda Veterinary Association combined to organise the clinic; it was a huge collaborative effort from everybody. We had vets, dog club members and government vets involved and the City of Hamilton donated the facility – this was a not-for-profit effort.”

She said that there are currently two to four new cases of the parovirus each week but there are also many reports of dogs dying at home before getting the chance to be treated.

Dr Tucker, an associate veterinarian at Ettrick Animal Hospital, stressed that all dogs should be vaccinated including unlicensed dogs.

She provided assurances that no dog owners would be questioned about the legality of their dogs and that their information would remain “purely confidential”.

She added: “We are very keen to vaccinate as many dogs as possible to reduce the risk of it being spread in the environment.

“Just this week an owner came in with very sick puppy and said the dogs don’t leave the yard – so it is coming in on the shoes.

“The main reason we are doing this is to save as many lives as possible. It will also reduce the costs of vet bills overall – vet care can be very expensive.

“If we don’t do this, the risk is that we have more spread into the island. The parvovirus can live in environment for extended periods over a year could be a few years.”

Clinics will also be held in the East and West Ends with times and locations to be announced.

A follow-up clinic for booster shots for those vaccinated on Sunday will be held at the same site on September 19.

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Published August 23, 2021 at 8:50 am (Updated August 23, 2021 at 8:50 am)

First vaccination drive against deadly parvovirus a success

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