Helping shelters prevent and respond to disease outbreaks: Update

Dr. Cynda Crawford sending a survivor to its new homeDisease outbreaks not only impact the life-saving capacity of shelters, but also destroy the shelter’s reputation with adoption partners, local veterinarians, and the entire community, especially when such outbreaks are publicized by local and national media sources.

This contributes to paralyzed adoptions, low staff morale, and perpetuation of the vicious cycle of crowding. In addition to the tangible losses associated with the financial costs of a disease outbreak, there are the intangible but far more costly losses of life and community support.

The UF Shelter Medicine Team, headed up by Dr. Cynda Crawford, works with shelters across the country that are struggling with disease outbreaks. To assist shelters in preventing and responding to outbreaks, Dr. Crawford has prepared an updated manual, Disease Outbreak Management in Shelters.

This document is available for immediate free download and provides an overview of the common causes of disease outbreaks in shelters and the strategic steps for successfully managing these outbreaks while maximizing the saving of lives.

Does your shelter already have a disease response plan developed with a qualified shelter veterinarian? If not, then your immediate response should be to reach out for help.

The good news is there are several shelter medicine programs at veterinary colleges around the country that offer programs designed to assist you with outbreak response, including subsidized diagnostic testing:

What’s better than outbreak response? Outbreak prevention.

“Vaccination on admission is crucial to preventing and stopping the spread of many outbreaks,” said Dr. Crawford. “But while vaccination will benefit many animals rapidly, it’s not a magic bullet.. You have to use other strategies at the same time. And of all the risk factors, crowding is the most important and common since it directly impacts all other facets of animal care and exponentially increases the stress level for both the animals and the staff.

The Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis has a number of resources specifically aimed at helping shelters with capacity for care here.

Want more resources? Take a look at the following presentations from Dr. Crawford:

Also of interest:

Just remember: Whether it’s response or prevention, help is out there! You just need to ask.