Date: 2002-02-07 07:29:00 UTC
Subject: ADV testing; Marshall Farms; accuracy of tests, etc.
Although not an expert on Aleutian disease by far, I have been
living with it and researching it for almost 3 years now. I'm
posting this in the hopes of helping to clear up some
misconceptions/unknowns that have been brought up recently on the
First, the woman who posted that her kit from MF has tested positive
is to be commended. If some feel her post was made in such a way as
to possibly "incite a panic", please keep in mind that at least she
did post. There are so very, very many people that have ferrets
that have tested positive that are hiding that fact. It's one of
the things I spoke about at the Ferrets 2002 Symposium. People are
getting a false sense of security about how widespread it really is.
Second, I believe that whoever spoke with "a doctor at Avecon"
(almost certainly Dr. Stephon, so I'll just refer to that Dr. as
"Dr. S" from now on), probably misunderstood what Dr. S. told her.
Any "kit" that has been exposed at or during birth, will not test
positive until after six weeks of age. All other ferrets can test
positive anywhere from a week or two after exposure to more than a
year after. I believe that's where the "six weeks" Dr. S. mentioned
As for the different tests (the CIEP that United does, or the ELISA
that Avecon does), there is a transcript of the talk Dr. Stephon
gave on my web site. It's an excellent article and I believe it
will clear up a lot of confusion people have. You can find that
article at: http://www.geocities.com/russiansmom/drstephon.html
ALL of the experts (vets, pathologists and researchers) that I have
spoken with say that once a ferret has tested positive with the
ELISA test, you should (to be safe) always consider that ferret
positive, despite what later tests show. As Dr. Stephon explained
it to me, at certain times, the virus may not be replicating in the
ferret. In time, the titers become so low that the test does not
pick them up. No one knows when the virus may begin replicating
again in that particular ferret...it could take weeks or months.
That's why it's always recommended that a negative test is repeated
several times over the space of a year. There *may* be false
positives with the CIEP test. For one thing, it *may* react to a
recent distemper vaccination; for another, the results are read with
"the human eye", which of course can become tired or make a mistake
if the results are "close". The ELISA test cannot react to a
distemper vaccination and Dr. Stephon explains why it can't in his
talk. (It truly is worth reading.)
I also personally know of one ferret that has been "tracked" by one
of the researchers (and there are many more of them than most people
are aware of) for over a year. The ferret initially tested
positive, with moderate titers. Later, the ferret's titers were so
low (in repeated tests) that it would have been considered a
negative test with either the CIEP or ELISA. The ferret later
tested positive again, with extremely high titers, within a short
period of time from it's last negative test. The ferret has stayed
positive since. Every one of the experts I've spoken with say that
we should always consider a ferret that tests positive with the
ELISA to be positive forever. It *may* be possible, on occasion,
for a ferret to "clear the virus", however there are no actual
documented cases as yet.
I don't believe that MF is sending out ferrets that are infected
with ADV. I do know that a Petco in New Jersey is adopting out ADV
positive ferrets, but those kits DO NOT come from Marshall Farms.
The MF kits *could*, however, be kept in a "holding" area with kits
that are infected with ADV or even be exposed elsewhere before
arriving at it's new home.
It's my belief that everyone should test their ferrets, no matter
where they came from. I receive many letters sent to me in
confidence from people who have received positive test results but
are AFRAID to post it or let anyone know. This is a very serious,
nasty disease...but it is still just a disease. Until people are
able to feel comfortable coming forward and saying they have
received a positive test result, we will never be able to convince
people that ADV is "everywhere"...and it is "everywhere".
We don't need a panic...it won't do any good...and it won't
accomplish anything. What we need is RESEARCH. We have to learn
more about this virus - how a ferret can become infected, when
shedding periods are, if certain ferrets have a natural immunity,
etc. Sadly, our best efforts are not coming anywhere near the
amount of money that is needed for the kind of research that will
help. Still, we need to do what we can. What we MUST do is be more
accepting of ferrets that are ADV positive. I call them "the
forgotten children"...no one wants to acknowledge them or hear about
them. It's sad...this isn't the ferrets' fault...nor is it the
fault of the ferrets' moms and dads. Please, please encourage them
to post. Listen to what they have to say and don't judge them.
Believe me, a positive test result is a huge shock to everyone.
Please let's bring Aleutian disease down to the level of other
diseases. You don't have to hide an adrenal ferret, or one with
insulinoma, or even one with lymphoma (which many now believe is
also caused by a virus)...so why do we react this way to Aleutian
disease? It isn't fair to any of the ferrets who are ADV
positive...and it's especially not fair to the ferrets who are
dying, or have died, from it.
If you haven't already been to White Russian's web site, please go.
There are many, many excellent articles to be found there...all of
them the most up to date information on ADV that's available.