Pandas: Those adorable, clumsy bears that seem too useless and specialized to survive. Their fertility rate is extraordinarily low, and they can even die of acute constipation (http://www.theguardian.com/science/animal-magic/2015/jan/13/yan-yan-constipated-panda-back-from-the-dead). But we love them, and they’ve become a symbol of conservation.
Unfortunately, even captive pandas just can’t seem to catch a break. A third panda has become critically ill following infection by the canine distemper virus, a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. Two pandas have already died in Chinese zoos because of this virus. The most recent animal to fall ill, 5-year old female Feng Feng, currently suffers from serious liver, kidney and lung damage, as well as neurological symptoms. A fourth infected panda, 14-year-old female Zhu Zhu, is in currently in stable condition.
Canine distemper virus, despite its name, actually infects a wide variety of carnivorous mammals besides dogs. These include coyotes, foxes, pinnipeds, skunks, raccoons, and ferrets. It causes a variety of symptoms such as high fever eye inflammation, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. CDV has an approximately 50% mortality rate, and can transmitted through the air or through other bodily secretions. A vaccine exists and is widely used in dogs. Perhaps more zoo animals should be vaccinated and/or quarantined to contain this outbreak.
Have a happy panda!