I read with interest (and sadness) Susan Washbrook’s ‘Lumps Update!’ article that appeared in the last NHC Journal. I have allowed my hamstery to run down while I concentrated on my dog for a while and I was hoping to start it up again this spring, so I have been following the Papovavirus closely.
I am very worried about this virus because, even though it has been over a year since the first case was diagnosed, we still do not know how it is passed from one animal to another. Is it by contact? In the body fluids? Airborne? As a judge and exhibitor, I need to know how to deal with this illness. If I exhibit at a show, will I then bring home the said virus? And infect all my new stock? If I do, how do I treat it?
As antibacterial disinfectant fluids and sprays are useless in the fight against this virus, should anyone with the virus, or even suspected of having it, be showing their hamsters? Should judges whose hamsters have the virus be judging at any clubs shows or abroad? I suggest not. I always understood that clubs had rules about showing animals with known viruses. I know that the SHC had a rule when I was a member, because I was at the AGM where it was passed. Has this changed?
Should we even be holding shows? By holding shows are we unleashing the virus onto unsuspecting PET hamster keepers? As all shows are open to the public and many shows are held with the intention of attracting as much public as possible, surely this is not what the fancy wants. I have heard that Sweden has cancelled their shows for six months because of this virus; maybe we should be thinking along the same lines.
Another question that should be asked is how did this virus get here? Is it because we can now so easily get licences to bring rodents into the country with no vets checking that these rodents are free from infection? Another twist is, did we give the virus to Sweden? Or did they give it to us? Has anybody thought to ask other rodent fancies whether they have a problem with this virus, or are they also keeping mum?
This is not the "Don’t panic!!" rantings of a Dad’s Army Corporal Jones; it is the considered response to the plight of Susan, who seems to be the only person trying to come to terms with this disease. I have even heard it said within the fancy that it is only a matter of time before we all get the virus and that we should accept it, just as we have accepted diabetes as the norm for Russian Campbell’s. I find this attitude deplorable and I, for one, am not ready to accept this.
I would urge anybody with any information, no matter how small or trivial you think it to be, to contact Susan Washbrook as she requests in her article. You can call her on 01789-764264 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any members who have this virus, or think they might have had it, please be honest and come forward, so that the fancies can provide better data for the vets to work on. The more data we have can only be a good thing, as we need to shine some light on how this virus is transmitted. As it stands now, it seems to me that Susan is the only one trying to find out, while other members seem to be keeping mum.
Photographs would be a good way for members to see just what this virus is like and how it affects the hamster. Why not take some photos of infected hamsters and let other members see what this disease looks like. I, as a judge, would like to see any photographs taken, so that I am able to identify infected animals should they be presented on the show table. Maybe we should all keep a disposable camera handy in the hamstery just in case.
In conclusion, I have to say that the rebuilding of my hamstery is on hold. I do not want to risk buying Syrians because of Papovavivus and I do not want to risk buying dwarfs because of diabetes. Still, all is not lost! If breeders take Papovavivus seriously and act swiftly to eradicate the virus in their hamstery, just as Susan is doing, we could very quickly see a return to health of the Syrian hamster. I look forward to that day!