[BLOG] Why I believe we must keep a calendar in shelters

One thing I'm really not good at ? When traveling, coping with the jet-lag. I arrived yesterday in Tokyo for a series of lectures on shelter medicine. I will be picked up by my japanese colleague at around 9am later today... and I've been wide-awake since 12am... Now that I feel confident that I will not find any more sleep, I thought I should go for something entertaining: let's go blogging !

I always have lots of ideas I want to share with you guys, and this one is trully really simple... but truth is, I have not seen it used widely in the field. While it makes a tremendous difference in case you unfortunately have to deal with an infectious disease outbreak.


Use a calendar and record on it all animal entries


Yes, that's the idea. I can already picture some of you shaking their heads. "Come on Doc, we do this all the time. It is part of the normal intake process." If you do this already, great. Keep doing it. One thing I know however: in shelters and rescues, time is what we need the most. We are always running. Always rushing. And when we do so, we forget. Especially about those tiny little details ( after all, it's a date!). I'll tell you in this blog why this information is so crucial. What I want you to take away right now: put this simple detail on top of your list. A new animal comes in, immediately write down the date it enters your structure.

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Why it matters for infectious diseases

This simple note will help you a great deal in the case of an infectious disease outbreak. It will help you determine what you are dealing with here : a shelter outbreak or a community outbreak. That's of the utmost importance because depending on what type of outbreak you are dealing with, you will have to take a different set of measures.


In the case of a community outbreak, emphasis will be out on the intake process : you might decide to screen all the new animals entering the structures, take sanitary precautions to prevent the causative germ from contaminating the intake room, use long-sleeved gloves and cover-alls to prevent the risk of fomite transmission... In the case of a community outbreak you will also warn the veterinary clinics deserving your communities so they can put an emphasis on prevention.

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In the case of a shelter outbreak, things are automatically more complicated. While sanitary measures will still be a focus, you will also have to put the emphasis on determining the risk status of all animals inside your structure... And that's a totally different story...

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The game-changer here: the calendar

And this where this simple measure I mentioned at the beginning will help you determine which situation you are in and help you adapt your strategy. It only takes those 4 very simple steps :


#1 You've written down when the animal entered your structure.


#2 Write down the date on which you observe the clinical symptoms


#3 Calculate the interval between the 2 dates


#4 Compare this result to the disease's incubation period (see this blog )


If this interval is less than the incubation period, chances are high that the animal caught the disease before its arrival.


If the interval is more than the incubation period, more likely the disease was picked up inside the shelter/rescue.

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For sure there might be some overlap but in case of an outbreak, it will give you a pretty clear idea of where the disease comes from and how to focus your efforts. Obviously a community outbreak can then turn into a shelter outbreak but I truly believe that understanding the initial source of the problem will make you more efficient.

And you see, at the beginning, it just takes... a calendar.

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