A ringworm virus outbreak is threatening the lives of Gaston County Police Animal Care and Enforcement’s cat population, the shelter said Thursday.
To avoid further spread, the shelter has partially shut down for 21 days, based on advice from North Carolina’s Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Services. During this period, the shelter won’t adopt or intake any cats.
The shelter’s cat population has been isolated while they’re being treated for the virus.
Ringworm an issue in Mecklenburg?
Ringworm, or Dermatophytosis, is not an issue at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care & Control, Melissa Knicely, the agency’s spokesperson, told the Observer.
There’s never been a ringworm outbreak at the agency’s shelter, Knicely said. Anywhere from 20 to 30 cases of ringworm are treated a year at most, and usually it’s kittens who often need treatment, she said.
A lime sulfur dip treatment is used to treat the virus, and the shelter uses a Wood’s lamp and microscopic examination to assist with diagnosis, Knicely said. The Wood’s lamp — an ultraviolet light with a specific wave length — will make ringworm show up as a bright green glow, she said.
“Think Granny Smith apple green,” Knicely said.
Symptoms may appear as hair loss and scaling, Knicely said. Common locations are face, ears, feet and tail. Often a classic ring shaped lesion will appear on a kitten, she said.
If a cat or kitten is diagnosed with ringworm, the shelter does the lime sulfur dip treatment and then puts the animal in an isolation room until it’s placed in a foster home, Knicely said.
“We get them into foster homes ASAP because isolating them and then getting them out of the shelter quickly is critical in preventing disease spread,” she said.
How to prevent a spread?
Knicely offered some tips to prevent cats or kittens from spreading ringworm.
▪ If a cat or kitten is found with hair loss, until it’s diagnosed, it’s best to assume it may have ringworm.
▪ Use disposable gloves to touch the cat or kitten and make sure to wash hands and arms thoroughly with soap.
▪ Avoid holding the cat or kitten next to the body or touching clothes.
▪ Take the cat or kitten to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
▪ Ringworm is a zoonotic disease and can be transmitted to humans and humans can transmit ringworm to animals.
What to do if a pet has ringworm?
The Centers for Disease and Control had a couple recommendations for humans so they don’t contract ringworm from their animals.
▪ Wash hands with soap and running water after playing with or touching pet.
▪ Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling animals with ringworm.
▪ Vacuum the areas of the home that the infected pet commonly visits. This will help to remove infected fur or flakes of skin.
▪ Disinfect areas the pet has spent time in, including surfaces and bedding.
▪ The spores of this fungus can be killed with common disinfectants like diluted chlorine bleach (1/4 cup per gallon water), benzalkonium chloride, or strong detergents. Never mix cleaning products. This may cause harmful gases.
▪ Do not handle animals with ringworm if one’s immune system is weak in any way.