A new “dog flu” outbreak has spread thru the Midwest and is on the watch list of New Jersey health and veterinary officials. Though there is no reported case of canine influenza in the state of the current outbreak, the New Jersey Department of Health spokeswoman Dawn Thomas said.
Health officials say that though it is called canine influenza, cats are not immune from the virus, though there is no proof that the virus is transmissible to people.
According to the Associated Press, the disease must have spread when pet owners boarded their dogs while on spring vacation, with more than 1,100 dogs already infected with the virus in the Midwest.
The state departments of Health and Agriculture, has alerted investigators at Cornell University that the outbreak is caused by a virus closely related to the Asian strains of influenza A H3N2 in circulation among Chinese and South Korean dogs.
The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association says even though there have been no new cases reported by their members they are still on guard.
Canine flu, like influenza in humans is exceedingly contagious, as it affects the respiratory system. It can be mild, with a moist cough persisting up to 30 days, accompanied with fever, sneezing and reduced appetite, with high fever and pneumonia in severe cases, and can sometimes prove fatal.
In close quarters with other dogs, owners should take steps to protect them. Though, a canine influenza vaccine is available and dogs who come in close contact with other dogs, like boarded dogs, dogs placed in day care, visiting dog parks or dogs who are exposed to other dogs should be considered vaccinated.
Dogs suspected with canine influenza should be isolated and checked by a veterinarian. Infected dogs should be isolated immediately from other dogs for 14 days and exposed dogs in a facility should be quarantined from other dogs also for 14 days.
Veterinarian, animal facilities owners and animal control officers are required to report suspected or confirmed cases of canine influenza to the health department where the animal or facility is located.