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Prevalence of infectious diseases in cats and dogs rescued following Hurricane Katrina

Julie K. Levy DVM, PhD, DACVIM1, Michael R. Lappin DVM, PhD, DACVIM2, Amy L. Glaser DVM, PhD3, Adam J. Birkenheuer DVM, PhD, DACVIM4, Tara C. Anderson DVM, MPH5, and Charlotte H. Edinboro DVM, PhD6
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  • 1 Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • | 3 New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14852.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.
  • | 5 Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.
  • | 6 Exponent Health Sciences, 149 Commonwealth Dr, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the prevalence of infectious diseases of animal and zoonotic importance in cats and dogs rescued and transferred from the Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—414 dogs and 56 cats rescued and transferred from the Gulf Coast region within 4 months after the hurricane.

Procedures—EDTA-anticoagulated blood and serum samples were tested via PCR and serologic assays for infectious diseases.

Results—In dogs, prevalence was highest for anti-West Nile virus (WNV) antibodies (218/390 [55.9%]), Dirofilaria immitis antigen (195/400 [48.8%]), anti-Toxoplasma gondii antibodies (92/366 [25.1%]), and hemotropic mycoplasma DNA (40/345 [11.9%]). The DNA of Bartonella spp, Ehrlichia spp, or Babesia spp or anti-canine influenza virus antibodies were identified in < 2% of dogs. In cats, prevalence was highest for antibodies against Bartonella spp and DNA of Bartonella spp combined (49/55 [89.1 %]), anti–T gondii antibodies (13/55 [23.6%]), hemotropic mycoplasma DNA (5/47 [10.6%]), anti-WNV antibodies (5/48 [10.4%]), D immitis antigen (4/50 [8.0%]), and anti–FIV antibodies (4/56 [7.1%]). A total of 308 (74.4%) dogs and 52 (92.9%) cats had evidence of previous or current vector-borne infections.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Cats and dogs rescued from the disaster region had evidence of multiple infectious diseases. The dispersal of potentially infectious animals to other regions of North America where some infections were not typically found could have contributed to new geographic ranges for these organisms or to underdiagnosis in affected animals because of a low index of suspicion in regions with low disease prevalence.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the prevalence of infectious diseases of animal and zoonotic importance in cats and dogs rescued and transferred from the Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—414 dogs and 56 cats rescued and transferred from the Gulf Coast region within 4 months after the hurricane.

Procedures—EDTA-anticoagulated blood and serum samples were tested via PCR and serologic assays for infectious diseases.

Results—In dogs, prevalence was highest for anti-West Nile virus (WNV) antibodies (218/390 [55.9%]), Dirofilaria immitis antigen (195/400 [48.8%]), anti-Toxoplasma gondii antibodies (92/366 [25.1%]), and hemotropic mycoplasma DNA (40/345 [11.9%]). The DNA of Bartonella spp, Ehrlichia spp, or Babesia spp or anti-canine influenza virus antibodies were identified in < 2% of dogs. In cats, prevalence was highest for antibodies against Bartonella spp and DNA of Bartonella spp combined (49/55 [89.1 %]), anti–T gondii antibodies (13/55 [23.6%]), hemotropic mycoplasma DNA (5/47 [10.6%]), anti-WNV antibodies (5/48 [10.4%]), D immitis antigen (4/50 [8.0%]), and anti–FIV antibodies (4/56 [7.1%]). A total of 308 (74.4%) dogs and 52 (92.9%) cats had evidence of previous or current vector-borne infections.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Cats and dogs rescued from the disaster region had evidence of multiple infectious diseases. The dispersal of potentially infectious animals to other regions of North America where some infections were not typically found could have contributed to new geographic ranges for these organisms or to underdiagnosis in affected animals because of a low index of suspicion in regions with low disease prevalence.

Contributor Notes

Supported by a grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Address correspondence to Dr. Levy (levyjk@ufl.edu).