Strep zoo infects Philadelphia shelter dogs

Lab results dismiss canine influenza, as reported by media

June 4, 2009 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Streptococcus equi is being linked to the death of six dogs in two Philadelphia shelters — not canine influenza, as officials originally suspected.

Test results from the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine confirmed the bacterial infection commonly referred to as strep zoo. Officials are awaiting additional confirmation from a Cornell University laboratory.

This afternoon, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) plans to release an educational fact sheet on strep zoo, which is treatable with penicillin.

The announcement came after the news media reported a suspected “outbreak” of canine influenza at the PSPCA shelter, where one dog died, and at the Animal Care and Control Team shelter (ACCT), which had five additional deaths.

ACCT serves as Philadelphia’s intake center for stray and abandoned animals. The dog that died at the PSPCA came from the city shelter, located roughly a mile away. Both sites, including PSPCA’s Rutherford Memorial Hospital, have been under quarantine since noon, Monday.

It was not immediately known when those quarantines would be lifted.

Dr. Rachel Lee, PSPCA director of shelter medicine and chief investigative veterinarian, could not be reached for comment by press time but stated in previous local news reports that the seemingly healthy dogs died within 12 hours to 24 hours of suddenly becoming ill.

Early on, she reportedly relayed to local media her suspicions that the illnesses were “a very severe form of canine influenza."

Now that canine influenza has been dismissed, officials are implementing treatment protocols for strep zoo at both shelters and consulting with Penn’s infection prevention practitioner to eliminate the bacteria in the environment, Less says in a PSPCA news release issued yesterday.

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