From the community

Humane Society in Waterville dealing with fungal outbreak

Posted April 25, 2014, at 10:59 a.m.

WATERVILLE, Maine — The Humane Society Waterville Area announced Friday that the shelter is experiencing a widespread fungal outbreak, and it has placed itself under voluntary quarantine.

Humane Society Waterville Area, in an effort to react quickly for the good of the animals and the shelter, contacted the state’s Animal Welfare Department earlier this week for advice and assistance. Due to the contagious nature of the fungus, the shelter is under voluntary quarantine.

Until the facility has been completely decontaminated, no animals will be taken in, and none will be available for adoption. Humane Society Waterville Area will be releasing information about renewed services in the days and weeks ahead.

Humane Society Waterville Area is not alone in dealing with this type of problem. Other shelters in Maine and across the nation have seen an increase in this type of fungus, which is a strain of ringworm. Though its name makes it sound like a parasite, it is actually a form of fungus, similar to athlete’s foot. It is an epidermal disease, strictly limited to skin surfaces. It is treatable. For animals, treatment consists of a bath dip in lime-sulphur, along with a course of anti-fungal medication.

Humane Society Waterville Area is a low-kill shelter, meaning that euthanasia is used only when an animal has a disease that is deemed untreatable, or the animal is proven to be unadoptable due to aggressive behavioral  problems, even after extensive work with a professional animal trainer. For this reason, the shelter’s first concern is the animals under its care.

Staff members are working to isolate healthy and adoptable dogs, cats, and other small animals. These animals will be continually monitored, and, as necessary, treated for ringworm. A two-week protocol will be followed, with multiple diagnostic cultures taken, before the animals are returned to the shelter proper, where they will be monitored by local veterinarians before being placed for adoption to the general public.

While these animals are isolated and treated, the shelter itself will be treated. The fungus spreads through spores. Work has begun to determine the extent of the fungal presence in the shelter facility. Cleaning and decontamination has already started. Staff members and volunteers are being briefed and will lead teams to manage animal care and do the shelter sanitizing work.

“This is a very difficult time for the shelter,” said Board President Matt Townsend, DVM, in a shelter press release. The Humane Society Waterville Area met on Thursday night, along with key shelter staff, to discuss and begin implementation of a plan of action in the face of this outbreak. “Our primary focus, of course, is to isolate and treat as many animals as we can.”

“We are looking to our members and to the public for assistance in this time of great need. We are asking for your emotional support and kind thoughts. We also need your patience as we work toward getting the shelter back on line to serve our communities. In addition, we are in desperate need of financial assistance. The work we have ahead of us, in treating animals and sanitizing our facility, will put a huge strain on our budget,” he said.

Anyone who can help — with volunteer time or urgently needed financial donations — is asked to contact Margi Hayes, outreach coordinator at 873-2430, outreach@hswa.org. The shelter and the animals need you very badly, and any assistance will be deeply appreciated.

Humane Society Waterville Area also asks that area veterinarians be prepared to answer questions they may receive from their pet owners about the symptoms and treatment of ringworm.

Anyone who would like more information on this common fungus can visit the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/ringworm.htm or the National Institute of Health page atwww.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001439.htm

The Humane Society Waterville Area is a private, nonprofit charitable corporation founded in 1970. The society exists to help prevent cruelty to animals and to provide shelter care and protection for the area’s stray, abandoned, and abused animals. HSWA received no federal or state funds, and local funds only through animal control fee-for-service contracts with 29 local towns. Animal control fees amount to less than 20 percent of  total income. All other funds must be raised through events and private sources. The shelter serves as many as 1,500 animals a year.

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