Chinese wildlife centres on high alert as canine distemper outbreak kills another giant panda

The disease has now killed two pandas, with another two critically ill

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Wildlife centres in two Chinese provinces have had to put in place emergency measures in a bid to fight an outbreak of canine distemper that has so far led to the deaths of two pandas in the region.

Centres that house giant pandas in the north-west Chinese provinces of Sichuan and central province of Shaanxi have reacted with emergency plans to combat the potentially lethal disease after it was discovered at one of the region’s biggest centres for pandas.

Last week, the Shaanxi Rare Wildlife Rescue and Research Centre in Xi'an had to be closed and an emergency response plan drawn up after veterinary staff at the centre discovered the disease in three of their pandas.

One of these pandas has since died, with the other two still in a critical condition; sparking fears of a canine distemper epidemic.

This followed the news in early December that another one of the centre’s giant pandas, eight-year-old Chan Cheng, had died of the disease.

It is now feared that the outbreak at the panda research centre could now spread to other centres in the in the area and precautions are now being.

Researchers in the centre, as well as other centres with giant panda populations, have set up strict measures such as the meticulous disinfecting of enclosures, regular vaccinations and the cleaning of food, all to ensure the disease does not spread further.

The mortality rate for canine distemper is extremely high in pandas, with over 90 per cent of the animals surviving the disease.

According to veterinary experts, the only vaccination on the market at the moment is made for dogs.

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