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Wildlife Officials Concerned About Spread Of Distemper From Foxes To Pets

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Canine distemper has been positively identified in New Hampshire foxes. It's highly contagious and sometimes fatal and it can spread to many other species, including dogs and cats.

Wildlife officials in Vermont and New Hampshire are warning of an outbreak of illness in wild foxes.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist Chris Bernier says the state has been fielding calls of obviously ill foxes in Washington County.

“Toward the end of last week there were, I believe, up to 10 reports of sick gray fox in the Barre area,” Bernier told Vermont Edition Thursday.

Bernier says rabies is not suspected, and at least one sample has already come back negative. But more tests are being run by the Health Department.

The more likely culprit is canine distemper, which has been positively identified in foxes tested in Haverhill, New Hampshire. It's highly contagious and sometimes fatal and it can spread to many other species, including dogs and cats.

“People need to get their pets properly vaccinated. And veterinarians should also know that this outbreak is occurring so they can be on the lookout for potentially infected domestic pets,” Bernier says.

But Bernier stresses that canine distemper is not transferable to humans. Anyone who sees a sick animal should keep a safe distance and call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4-RABIES.

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