Some Updates to the Mysterious “Ohio Virus”


This morning, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association issued an email to all Ohio veterinarians with statements from the state veterinarian at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  They have confirmed the presence of circovirus in one dog, but test results have not come in yet on the other seven, and it may be weeks before they are finished. Testing takes time, which is, of course, frustrating for everyone, since we all want answers.

Dr. Tony Forshey, the state veterinarian very strongly urged caution before jumping to any conclusions. He said, and I quote, “We don’t yet know the role, if any, that circovirus played in the death of that one dog. ” Nevertheless, people do jump to conclusions and it quite disappointing that some of the people indulging in speculation are out-of-state veterinarians. One of them is any anti-vaccine crusader who has been circulating the baseless rumor that dogs have contracted the virus from circovirus-contaminated vaccines.

The other is an “internet sensation” (“America’s Pet Advocate) who gained fame by sitting in a hot car with a thermometer to show that if you sit in a hot car parked in the sun in a place where palm trees grow that in twenty minutes it gets pretty hot in there. This time, he is circulating grisly necropsy photographs with big red letters heralding the arrival of a “killer virus” which he identified as circovirus. Very much jumping to conclusions, and he advised all who asked to “talk to their vet about circovirus.”

So far, the only deaths identified as caused by circovirus were in California last spring. Does that mean that these deaths are not circovirus? No, it just means we still don’t know, and it would be good for veterinarians to keep an open mind about what they’re dealing with. The fact of the matter is that many of these cases may be “normal” illnesses that vets are already familiar with:  parvovirus or coronavirus, camphylobacter, cryptosporidium, giardia etc.  Many of these have the same supportive treatment: address the symptoms while testing.

Because Dr. Forshey is certain that the means of transmission is fecal, you can best protect your dog by keeping him or her away from the fecal material of other dogs– he specifically mentioned avoiding dog parks. We will add pet areas at rest stops are also a haven for fecal-borne illnesses. Some individuals have taken to washing their dogs feet, with the thought that dogs perspire through their feet. Does it help? Who knows?  But like hand-washing, it can’t hurt!

And please, remember to pick up after your dog.

The OVMA email also mentioned that the Department of Agriculture is now compiling cases that may be this mysterious illnesses, and encouraged veterinarians to contact them if they believe they have or have had cases. Their number is (614) 728-6220.

Finally, as always, if your dog shows any of these symptoms: vomiting, bloody diarrhea and/or foaming at the mouth, get them to a vet. Don’t try to ride this one out, don’t try to treat at home. Dogs that get prompt treatment are recovering well.