The H3N2 virus — better known as the “dog flu” — is on the move with new reports of sick animals in Boston, Massachusetts, and Atlanta, Georgia.
What first seemed mainly only a regional epidemic impacting the Midwest has spread to 12 states, giving veterinarians and dog owners across the country pause for concern.
The Massachusetts SPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston reports the newest case is a 5-year-old female terrier that was brought in on May 3 with a hacking cough following a family trip to Chicago, according to WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston. The dog is recovering at home as veterinarians await official confirmation on which strain the dog has — this new H3N2 virus or the older, more common version, H3N8.
Earlier this week, Petcha.com reported that a dog who had stayed at an Atlanta-area boarding facility had the flu, although the extract strain was unknown at that time. USA Today reported on Wednesday that it was, in fact, the H3N2 virus.
To date, more than 1,700 cases of this dog flu — as well as eight deaths — have been confirmed, USA Today reports. In addition to Massachusetts and Georgia, cases have been confirmed in Illinois, Alabama, California, Texas, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Researchers at the school say the outbreak is being caused by a virus closely related to Asian strains of influenza A H3N2 viruses, which is currently in wide circulation in dogs living in southern China and South Korea.
Signs of dog flu infection in dogs include cough, runny nose and fever, but not all dogs will show signs of illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions.
“The severity of illness associated with dog flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death in dogs,” the CDC writes on its site.
How can you help protect your dog? Cornell recommends checking with your veterinarian to find out if the influenza virus has been a problem in your area. If it is, you should keep your dog out of situations where contact with other dogs can occur.
While there is a vaccine for H3N8, officials say are there is no vaccine for this specific strain, currently, USA Today reports.
At this time there are no known cases of this influenza virus infecting humans. While the virus was found in cats in South Korea a few years ago, there have been no reports of U.S. cats with H3N2.
For more information, read the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Canine influenza FAQs for pet owners.