From: Debbie F
Date: 2001-08-07 11:32:00 UTC
Subject: Dangerously ill from "Flu"
I just want to do a quick update and let you know the status
as of today. We've had 4 apparent cases of
this in the last week, we being myself and 2 Club members, 3
of the 4 died and 1 recovered. The one
common denominator among the 3 that died was rapid nset of
massive dehydration. Necropsies were done on
2 with tissue specimens taken to be sent to Dr. Bruce
I'd like to clarify that when the word Shelter appears in our
post, I am in fact referring to my particular
house, as of today this illness hasn't shown up in any of our
homes tat have adoptable kids or kids available
The following port is quite long because it was written
primarily to be e-mailed to ferret vets across
the country in the hope of finding some kind of answers. If
you aren't currently seeing one of our
shelter vets, please take the time to print this up and bring
it to your vet and/or any other vet who sees
ferrets. To date no one we have talked to who went to a vet
has found that their vet could diagnose this.
If you read nothing else, at least take the time to review the
symptoms. If your ferret currently has,
has had in the past, or should in the future display these
symptoms, please let me know immediately. I'm
trying to collect as many case histories, as complete as
possible, to try and find the common threads that
will hopefully enable us to pin down what this is and how to
This is long, but this is some more detailed information (and
some case histories on the post that was titled possible
epizootic in MN.
To refresh your memory: Symptoms include, fever, cough,
sneeze, weakness, apparent acheyness, sniffle, apparent
chills, tipping over/dizziness, gas, nausea, puking,
diarrhea, loss of hind leg use, dehydration, prolapsed
rectum, spiked blood glucose (300-500 range, even in
insulinomic ferrets, which drops within 24 hours to
normal/usual), seizure. Not all ofthe symptoms have been
observed in all ferrets.
The greatest majority of folks that Laura has talked to that
have had ill ferrets have had some sort of bug going through
the human household at least once.
We first heard about the illness in the Madison, Wisc area in
Nov./Dec. The vet there had been seeing people come in with
severely dehydrated ferrets, so we were watching for it. Our
first case came in March of this year. Slip, a 3 yo
ferret was surrendered by someone who had rescued it from
someone else, it was sick and they didn't know what to do.
Blood glucose had spiked into the 500 range, which was the
only thing that showed up on blood profile (everything else
was in normal ranges). And he had lost the use of his back
legs. Tests showed no ADV. Supportive care wasadministered,
he regrouped, was on the upswing for several weeks, and then
within 24 hours went to total dehydration,
loss of hind legs again, and was dead. Necropsy at the U of
MN came up with nothing but lymphosarcoma, assumed to
be a preexisting condition (was not tested for when he came
in). the 500+ glucose came down to 146 three days later, no
measures taken to bring it down. He died about a month after
initially coming in ill.
During March to April, the "bug" went through the human
sector, Laura's daughters (one a paramedic and said that the
same stuff as her family members was going through the Twin
Cities...primarily the old and the young). Laura's
husband had severe case (had to take several days off work
for the first time off in 10 years). Laura had a very mild
case. There apparently were the same wide range of symptoms,
including total weakness. Major symptoms in the human sector
were a blinding headache and loss of balance/major dizziness.
Humans were apparently falling it was so severe.
Laura made the connection between the human "bug" and the
ferret "bug" that started going through her shelter by
observing the ferrets staggering and falling, on top of the
puking, runs, etc. The majority out of several dozen ferrets
got nothing or a very minor minor case. None of the ferrets
in 3 other foster homes that had been exposed to Slip got
ill. However, only 1 of the humans in those households (5
total) had gotten the "human bug".
The only other ferret that was severely hit was Valentino 1
1/2 year old in full winter weight and apparently as healthy
as can be. Same scenario, absolutely fine and then within
24 hours was completely dehydrated, lost the use of his back
legs, glucose spike caught in the 300 range. Apparently
regrouped, up and doing well, and then down again and dead
within 24 hours. Both he and Slip died in seizures.
That was it for round 1 for Laura. She had enough calls from
other club members with the same "bug" symptoms, at that
point that she issued a warning on e-mail to club members
and it went in the newsletter. The "round" seemed to be over
by mid April.
Round 2 started in mid June. Laura was alerted by paramedic
daughter that there was a bad bug was going through
the human sector, same symptoms as earlier in the spring,
and same range, some very mild and some knocked completely
flat. Laura's husband got nailed hard again, and again,
Laura only got a mild case.
The first case in ferrets that Laura saw on this second round
came in as rescues, one healthy, one nearly dead. This
happened around the third week in June. He went to one of
the shelter vets, he survived and was supported (2 or 3 year
old male). 3 day later, up walking, eating, pooping normal,
looked like he was recovering...continued to improve until
the 22nd. Out flat, total dehydration within 5-6 hours, legs
gone, comatose the morning of the 23rd 6 hour fast had a
blood glucose (he couldn't be fed because he was comatose,
but getting sub-Qed every 2 hours) blood glucose was 345. He
died at 4:15pm afternoon on the 23rd after seizing nearly all
Various lighter forms have gone through 1/4 of the household
had it for a day or two, including even the most advanced
adrenal/insulinoma/aged. The only other two that got hit hard
was shortly after or around Laura's husband got ill was
Sugar, a 5 year old male, previous bg 105, no signs of
adrenal, good weight, good
health, etc., and Georgie who was insulinoma but who not had a
seizure and still had decent weight (another 5 year
old male). Same scenario, hit hard, bg was normal (could
have been missed), elevated white count. ADV- Appeared to
regroup, and has been now 4 weeks of a rollercoaster up and
down. (on an upswing today).
Laura has had calls from across MN including people she's
never met, and many who didn't know other people with
other ferrets, much less been in contact with them. The
only thing that was noted on any bloodwork done was a high
white count. Enlarged spleens also noted. Of the incoming
phone calls, 3 under a year, 2 survived after 3-5 day
roller-coaster. 8 month old after seeing two vets and a week
long roller-coaster died. Several phone calls also from club
The major theme has been fine one day to less than 24 hours
total dehydration and loss of hind legs. In two cased
"blueberry preserve" diarrhea was observed...frothy, blue
(not tarry and sticky) and watery around the edges. Also
reported and possibly unrelated, 3 different areas, 3
different people, prolapsed rectums. None of the other
ferrets in those households were obviously ill.
Note: overheard at a human ER: "there's a lot of bad stuff
This is coming from a range of several hundred miles. So it's
not localized bad water. Many people having no contact
with other ferret people. The only apparent connection is a
widespread human "bug".
After sending the previous e-mail out to our e-mail list Laura
has gotten more phone calls from club people stating that
their ferret (and in several cased died) had this in the last
Vets are stumped. Many vets are diagnosing this as some sort
of "virus", "bug", or lymphoma. This based on the profile
being negative except for elevated white count, larged spleen
and/or lymph nodes. No one that Laura is aware of except
herself has done necropsies, and there has been nothing
showing up except the one case of lymphosarcoma. The third
death will be having tissue samples sent to Williams.
Some musing about what this is or what's going on...based on
Laura's information from the human sector the bug/bugs going
through have caused several human deaths, mostly in the young
and old. In addition, and this may be entirely
unrelated, we have both a viral and a bacterial meningitis
and the West Nile encephalitis in this area. We wondering
if these illnesses could be affecting the ferrets.
The other major thing that has occurred to Laura, and she's
thinking more and more about is Camphlobacter (sp?). That
the "bug" going around is possibly kicking it into gear.
What treatment options are available for this now, as the
vets believe the chloranphenicol (sp?) that they know to use
taken off the market.
Anybody know of any other cases that fit this, any additional
ideas (remember we have tested for ADV, fecals are clean,
Also, if you want to talk to Laura about what's going on call
her 651-439-5209. Leave a message if you don't get hold of
If you're living in the upper Midwest (or even elsewhere),
check your ferrets at least every morning and night, and
especially be aware of dehydration and act on it immediately.
The ferrets that are known to have died did so *very
quickly* from seemingly being healthy or on the rebound.