Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Guidelines: Quarantine

Tigers entering a rehabilitation centre are a potential source of disease to other tigers and to people, and quarantine procedures should be put in place to prevent the introduction or spread of disease. In other words, quarantine is a veterinary safety measure to safeguard the rehabilitation centre, its’ tigers and the staff who work there.

  • Each animal admitted to the rehabilitation centre should be placed in a quarantine holding area. There should be no exceptions.
  • The length of the quarantine period should be at least 30 days. If during the 30-day quarantine period any of the quarantined animals develops symptoms of disease, the 30-day period must begin again from that day.
  • The guidelines presented are based on good quarantine practice. Although it is acknowledged that these measures will be difficult to achieve in practice, all efforts must be made and maintained to uphold a high standard.

Quarantine facilities:

  • Ideally, during the quarantine period, animals should be kept in specially equipped quarantine enclosures. Sick and exhausted animals or individuals suffering hypothermia or hyperthermia should be placed in a temperature-controlled room, kept there until recovery, and then gradually moved to an outdoor enclosure. However, in some cases this ideal may compromise the key principals of  minimising stress and tiger-human contact – visual, olfactory and auditory. One way to mitigate this problem is to quarantine each tiger in a biosecurity unit (see “Facility design” section) comprising a den, a small enclosure and a main or large enclosure. Initially a tiger can be held in the den if necessary (for example, very sick or severely injured individuals) and allowed access to the small enclosure only when fit to do so. In this scenario the den and the small enclosure is considered the “quarantine unit”. Access to the main enclosure could be allowed after the 30-day quarantine period. Adopting this approach also allows a tiger to be quarantined for its entire stay at a rehabilitation centre.
  • Mothers with dependant cubs or sub-adult sibling groups can be quarantined as single groups, with group structure changed if necessary only after the end of the quarantine period.
  • No visitors should be allowed in quarantine units.
  • It is extremely important that wild and domestic animals are excluded from quarantine units.
  • Each quarantine unit should have a set of tools to be used exclusively for that facility. These are only to be used within that unit and should not leave it. Moving tools between quarantine units can spread disease.
  • Each quarantine unit should have rubber boots (in good condition), overalls, disposable facemasks and disposable gloves used exclusively for that area. This equipment should always be worn when staff are inside the unit.
  • Each quarantine unit should have a footbath filled with an appropriate disinfectant (see below).
  • Separate drainage is required for each quarantine unit to prevent avoid cross contamination between units.

Quarantine procedures:

  • Before and after occupation quarantine units and associated equipment should be thoroughly cleaned to remove organic material and then disinfected with disinfectants that will neutralise even the most resistant pathogens (eg Feline Parvo Virus).
  • Each animal admitted to a quarantine should be examined and all necessary samples collected according to examination protocol. This may occur on arrival at the rehabilitation centre.
  • The highest standards of personal hygiene must be adopted by staff. Keepers should minimise direct or indirect contact with pets, domestic livestock (i.e. through footwear, clothing & equipment) and other wildlife.
  • The disinfectant in the footbath should be changed daily. If the footbath becomes contaminated with a dirt or mud during use it should be changed immediately.
  • Overalls should be kept in a specially designated area of the quarantine units (which may require making the keeper area of dens large enough for the purpose). If any infection is suspected, the overalls should be soaked in a disinfectant solution. Otherwise, all overalls and other working clothes should be washed at least once a week.  The overalls must be washed above 60 degrees centigrade.
  • Before entering a quarantine, staff should remove work boots, put on overalls, mask, gloves and rubber boots, and use the footbath. On leaving the quarantine the footbath should be used again, rubber boots and overalls removed, and gloves and mask placed in a waste bag. Ideally facilities should be available to then wash hands thoroughly, after which work boots can be replaced immediately before leaving.
  • Any waste from a quarantine unit – including bedding, faeces, gloves and masks – should be placed in a waste bag and sealed before leaving the quarantine enclosure. These bags should be kept at a designated site (preferably in closed bins) away from any tiger holding facility before they are transported off site for authorised biological waste disposal or burning.
  • Liquid waste from quarantine must be put into nearby soakaways.
  • Visits to a quarantine unit by staff should be minimised. The use of CCTV is recommended for monitoring.

Cleaning quarantine facilities:

  • Feed and water containers and food preparation utensils should be cleaned and disinfected daily. Food and animal waste should be removed daily from a quarantine room, but this may be challenging if a biosecure unit den is being used as part of quarantine.
  • It should be the veterinarian’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate disinfectants are used and are used correctly. Wide spectrum disinfectants such as “Virkon” and “Trigene” are suitable for general purposes. Phenolic disinfectants should not be used due to their potential toxicity to cats. Quaternary ammonium compounds alone are ineffective against the highly resistant and persistent Feline Parvovirus – an important feline pathogen commonly present in young tigers. Household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) at 36mls per litre of water applied for 10 minutes, or potassium peroxymonosulphate (eg “Virkon”) are suitable. The Canine Distemper Virus and Rabies Virus are relatively short lived in the environment and are susceptible to most disinfectants.
  • Disinfectant solutions must always be prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Care should be taken to make disinfectant solutions at the correct concentration.
  • Outdoor enclosures should be routinely cleaned (removal of faeces, uneaten food etc) only when a tiger leaves the enclosure and before a new tiger is put into the enclosure. Disinfectants should not be used in these areas.
  • More thorough cleaning of outdoor enclosures will generally only be feasible between occupants. Leaving outdoor enclosures unoccupied for three months after a tiger has been moved out of the rehabilitation facility and before another is given access is a sensible precaution and does allow removal of gross contamination (faeces, uneaten food etc), replacement of wooden structures and close inspection and maintenance of fences, doors, gates etc.
  • Crates and cages in which tigers arrive must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. If this isn’t possible, they should be burnt.
  • In general the safest way to dispose of most disinfectants is to spread them on soil or sand so that they disperse slowly. Drains that run straight into ditches and down into a river system should not be used.

 Release from quarantine.

  • Before releasing from quarantine tigers should be vaccinated.
  • Release from the quarantine should be dependent on negative results of faecal parasitology and bacteriology tests, and virologic screening.
  • After the end of quarantine and release of the tiger from the quarantine unit, indoor areas should be rigorously cleaned, disinfected and wooden fixtures replaced as far as possible. No other tiger should the placed in this area for at least three months.

Deaths in quarantine:

  • If a tiger dies during its quarantine period, a thorough post-mortem examination should be performed. This should be conducted by a qualified veterinary pathologist with the involvement of the veterinarian of the rehabilitation centre, and if required, a state authorized veterinarian. Samples for histological, bacteriological and virologic tests will be necessary unless the cause of death is obvious – eg: trauma related. Even if a death is trauma-related and there is no suspicion of an infectious disease, tissue samples ideally should be taken and stored for future reference. (See Pathology Resource for details)