Even though Florida is getting the most press in the latest canine influenza (CI) outbreak, it may have started in Perry, Georgia. (As of July 3, 2017, at least 82 cases have been laboratory confirmed.) Every dog who tested positive has a connection to the shows or to another dog who had been at one of the shows. Soon after, cases showed up in Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas (5 cases in Texas in three counties, as of 6-15-17). Tests are being performed to determine whether there is a common source for the virus. As of June 12, 2017, at least one case was reported in Illinois, which shouldn’t be surprising, since the first US cases were in Chicago.
All of the cases in this epizootic have tested positive for the H3N2 strain of dog flu. H3N2 is the more-recently discovered of the two strains in the United States, having first been diagnosed in Chicago in 2015.
Although the fatality rate with CI can reach 8%, “only” two deaths are reported and those were in North Carolina.
Here’s the rub: all unvaccinated dogs have “naive” immune systems; they have no innate protection and any exposure results in illness. Click here to read more about the vulnerability of a naive immune system.
Protection requires vaccination with both strains of the virus: H3N8 (older) and H3N2 (newer). Each vaccination needs to be administered by your pet’s doctor, followed by a booster in not less than three weeks (some doctors may booster as early as two weeks) and not more than 4 weeks. Failure to have the booster given inside that window results in the immune system “forgetting” that it had the first vaccination, requiring the series to be restarted.
Your dog need not come in contact with an infected dog to become infected himself. While contact does enhance transmission, canine influenza is an airborne disease, and simply breathing the air an infected dog has shared is sufficient to make your dog sick, too.
According to veterinarian Dr. Cynda Crawford of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, the “mist” from a coughing dog can travel up to 20 feet. Dr. Crawford emphasizes that the viruses are easily killed by disinfectants and virus-killing cleaning agents. Therefore, carriers, bowls, leashes, all surfaces potentially contaminated should be cleaned thoroughly.
There is no threat to humans. Cats have been documented to be infected with canine influenza, although it is rare.
Stay tuned to MyPetsDoctor.com for more updates as more information becomes available.