A new strain of canine influenza caused by the Influenza A , H3N2 virus first caused an outbreak in the U.S. last year in the Chicago area. It is highly contagious in community settings and has the potential to spread rapidly since virtually all dogs that come into contact with the virus wil became infected and infectious to other dogs. Dr’s Freiman and Rothstein and our staff are raising awareness about the new strain of canine influenza in the hopes that clients will recognize the signs of the illness early, and have their dogs examined promptly if symptoms develop.
Unlike the canine influenza virus H3N8, which originated in horses, the H3N2 strain started as an avian flu virus, but it adapted to infect dogs. According to the CDC, it was first detected in South Korea and south China in 2007, where it widely circulated in dog populations. It didn’t make its first appearance in the United States until about a year ago, when it affected more than 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area.There have been several smaller outbreaks in other states which were limited by rapid treatment and isolation. So far, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted to humans.
Dogs that are infected by the H3N2 strain of the canine influenza virus experience a variety of symptoms. Most commonly, affected dogs suffer from coughing, moderate to high fever, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Some infected dogs may remain entirely asymptomatic, never exhibiting symptoms, although they can still transmit the virus to other dogs.
Our doctors have been advising clients that although a vaccine has recently become available for canine influenza that is caused by the H3N2 strain. The vaccine requires two doses, and it takes time for dogs to develop immunity against the virus. Additionally, the manufacturer of the vaccine recommends vaccinating dogs against the older H3N8 virus to prevent recombination of the two strains. That is a total of four vaccinations. We do not know whether an outbreak in the Plantsville area is inevitable, and so vaccination may not be useful at this time, However,the vaccines are safe and can be administered if owners desire.
Clients are also being reminded that while the new strain of canine influenza lasts longer, is more contagious and is more serious than the H3N8 strain, it is generally not fatal. In the most serious cases, it can compromise a dog’s normal lung defenses, allowing secondary bacterial infections like pneumonia to occur. If an outbreak occurs, dog owners should keep their dogs away from kennels, dog parks and other areas that dogs frequent. Our team urges clients to bring their dogs in to be examined if they begin coughing persistently or exhibiting other symptoms. Appropriate treatment started early is effective against bacteria, and testing of symptomatic dogs can alert us to an outbreak at an early stage, so it can be contained more easily.