The flu strain that has infected at least one thousand dogs in Chicago likely stems from a canine that traveled from Asia to the United States, MyFoxChicago.com reported.
“The H3N2 was brought here almost for certain by a dog from Asia, or that had visited Asia and came over here while they were infective, which is a very short window,” Dr. David Gonsky, of West Loop Veterinary Care in Chicago, told MyFoxChicago.com.
Public health officials initially thought the flu strain infecting dogs in Chicago was H3N8, but scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin have now confirmed H3N2 is the main strain that is circulating.
This is the first time H3N2 has been identified in North America. The last outbreak of the strain occurred in China and South Korea.
Public health officials in Chicago have advised local dog owners to refrain from taking their pets to dog parks, day cares and grooming facilities to help prevent the virus from spreading. Veterinarians are also recommending vaccination, which may or may not protect against the current strain. According to MyFoxChicago.com, public health officials will confirm within the next few months whether the vaccine prevents against the strain.
Although H3N2 hasn’t been found to transmit from dogs to humans, it can infect cats. So far, the city hasn’t received any reports of cats infected with H2N2, MyFoxChicago.com reported.
“There's not much known about how cats are getting it or if they're able to pass it,” Dr. Gonsky told the news station. “The thought would be that if a dog got it and passed it to a cat, the cat could potentially pass it to something else.”
Symptoms of the dog flu include coughing, lethargy, fever and lack of appetite. Veterinarians advise dog owners to take their pets to the doctor immediately if they start showing signs.