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New Strain Causing Midwest Canine Flu; Cats Now Affected

Veterinarians know more about the outbreak of canine flu that’s affecting dogs in Chicago and the Midwest. And the news isn’t good.

Veterinarians at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin have identified the strain as influenza A H3N2, which is currently in wide circulation and affecting dog populations in southern China and South Korea. This marks the first time the A H3N2 virus has been detected in North America. Experts initially thought the flu strain causing the current outbreak was the more common A H3N8 which was first identified in the U-S in 2004.

And there’s more bad news. The A H3N2 strain also causes infection and respiratory illness in cats and it’s much more virulent, meaning affected animals develop the disease faster and more severely than A H3N8. It’s highly contagious, causes severe coughing and difficulty breathing and can be fatal if not treated. Both Influenza strains can cause high fever, loss of appetite, nasal discharge and lethargy. Cornell says some infected dogs may not show symptoms at all.

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for A H3N2. The existing vaccine only contains A H3N8 but is being tested on the new strain. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Iowa is sequencing two isolates from the outbreak to facilitate rapid complete characterization of the viruses and begin developing an H3N8 vaccine.

“It is not known if the current vaccine will provide any protection from this new virus but it does protect against A H3N8 which is in circulation in some areas,” said Cornell University in a statement. That’s why veterinarians are still recommending pet owners get the vaccine for their dogs and cats.

Pet owners are also being warned to avoid places where dogs congregate, including dog parks, dog beaches, grooming salons and daycare/boarding facilities.

The A H3N2 strain hasn’t been documented in humans and experts think it’s only contagious to dogs and cats, not other animals. The current flu outbreak has sicked more than 1,000 dogs according to a statement by the University of Wisconsin.

Check back frequently for updated information.

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