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Animal shelters protect against spread of disease
Facilities make plans in case pneumonia-like disease spreads
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After Gwinnett County’s animal shelter closed its doors this month because of a  pneumonia-like illness that killed one dog and infected many others, local shelters are taking steps to prevent the same fate.

Julie Edwards, executive director at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, said a clinical team quickly got together to write out the protocols they would take in case of the disease’s spread.

The Gwinnett shelter closed April 10 after one dog died and 23 were experiencing symptoms including coughing and sneezing.

Tests indicated signs of pneumonia. Since then dogs have been responding well to antibiotic treatment and a temporary shelter has been set up at another location.

Edwards said this type of disease is usually “aerosol,” meaning it can travel through any secretion from the respiratory system, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Just one sneeze or shared toy could start a chain reaction.

“We have a high level air exchange system in place that filters air every seven to 10 minutes,” Edwards said of measures to prevent the spread of disease.

Edwards said though it isn’t uncommon for an animal welfare organization to have an outbreak of some kind every couple of years, those outbreak tends to be nonlife-threatening, such as upper respiratory infections.

The Hall County Animal Shelter also takes precautions against disease, such as vaccinating against kennel cough.

If worse came to worst, both Edwards and Ledford said their shelters would do whatever it takes to keep the animals healthy.

“If we have any (dogs) that develop any symptoms of that particular disease, we pull them into quarantine immediately and then re-vaccinate and see where it goes from there,” Ledford said. “Knock on wood, we haven’t had to do that, but that would be our first step.”

Proper hygiene including washing hands and maintaining a clean environment are key, they said.

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