June 26, 2015
A case of the new canine influenza H3N2 has been diagnosed and confirmed by laboratory testing at a veterinary clinic in Mount Pleasant this week. This is the first confirmed case in South Carolina. This is the same strain that made headlines earlier this year with an outbreak in the Midwest. The dog is a visitor to our state from Georgia, a state that has had several reported cases of H3N2 over the past month. From speaking with the attending veterinarian directly, it is my understanding that this dog had recently stayed in a boarding facility in Georgia that later had confirmed cases of H3N2.
What you should know about canine influenza:
- There have been 2 strains of canine influenza in North America. The first one was H3N8, which was documented in 1999. The second strain is the new one H3N2, the one of which there is current concern.
- Although there is a vaccine that has been available for several years for H3N8, at this time it is completely unknown if there is any cross-protective immunity for H3N2 from this vaccination. From the start of this year, two pharmaceutical companies have told us that they have been testing this older vaccine on the newer H3N2 strain, and at this time we have not received any reports on results that proves that protection exists. Even so, after the spread of H3N2 in the midwest, the vaccine has been in very high demand, and has quickly reached a backorder status.
- At this time, there has been no reported cases of people getting sick with H3N2 from their dog.
- Canine influenza is spread through aerosolization of the flu virus into the air. It can live for 2 days on contact surfaces, but is easily killed through disinfecting.
- About 75%-80% of dogs that are exposed to influenza will develop clinical signs. These clinical signs include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, fever, and possible decreased appetite. For most dogs, the symptoms appear to be mild and they recover in 2-3 weeks.
- A small portion of the above listed dogs that develop clinical signs will have moderate to severe signs that will require treatment by a veterinarian, such as fluid therapy and antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections.
- Currently, it has been recorded that 1-5% of dogs contracting canine influenza will become severely ill and die from this disease, often by developing pneumonia. Like influenza in people, dogs that are the most likely to become this severely ill are ones that are immunocompromised, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, and patients receiving chemotherapy.
What you should do if your dog is sick/developing respiratory signs:
- Call your veterinarian. At the time you make your appointment, let your veterinarian know that you are seeing respiratory signs (coughing/sneezing) as your veterinarian will wish to schedule your appointment in a manner that decreases the risk of other patients in the hospital being exposed. Your veterinarian will complete a physical exam to confirm if the signs you are seeing are consistent with canine influenza or possibly another disease that can cause a cough (for example: heartworm disease).
- Your veterinarian can offer you a diagnostic test to be completed by sending a sample to an outside laboratory to help try to confirm if influenza is present.
- If influenza (or another type of contagious respiratory infection is suspected), your veterinarian will strongly recommend that you protect other pets by keeping your dog separated from other dogs for about the next 2 weeks. This will include not going to boarding facilities, grooming facilities, dog parks, etc.
How you can protect your healthy dog:
- Restrict your activity with any dog that is coughing, sneezing, or showing other signs of contagious illness. Unfortunately, as canine influenza can be spread in the 2-4 days from when a dog has been exposed to before it develops clinical signs (incubation period), just because a dog is clinically healthy it does not guarantee that they are not spreading the virus.
- If your dog has a chronic medical illness, is very old, very young, or otherwise immunocompromised, I would recommend limiting exposure to other dogs in high volume areas such as boarding facilities, dog shows, and dog parks.
- If your pet is going to board, especially in areas like the Midwest or Georgia where several cases have been reported, you may consider getting the influenza vaccine for H3N8. However, as mentioned above, supply for this vaccine is not completely reliable due to the recent backorder. The vaccine requires 2 doses administered 3 weeks apart and has not been proven to be effective against H3N2.
For more information see:
Canine Influenza Facts from The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vet.uga.edu/news/view/canine-influenza-facts
AVMA- Influenza frequently asked questions