The threat of canine influenza spreading to other areas has raised immediate concern after a dog in Illinois died from the illness while two others show symptoms of the infection.
This recent death adds to the five canine fatalities already reported in Chicago early this month.
Debra Quackenbush, an official from the McHenry County Health Department, confirmed that an eight-year-old dog being cared for in the county's animal control facility has died Monday due to complications of canine influenza. Quackenbush said that the dog was brought to the facility, along with two others, within the past two weeks.
An estimated 1,100 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana have already been infected by the canine influenza, according to animal health experts.
In a recent test conducted at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, scientists have identified the viral strain as H3N2 believed to have originated from Asia. They, however, remain uncertain whether current vaccines will be effective against this particular strain.
Symptoms of H3N2 infection in dogs include recurrent coughing, runny nose and fever. In extreme cases, infected canines develop a lack of appetite, vomiting, and pneumonia.
All breeds and ages of dogs are vulnerable to the canine influenza, and according to animal health experts, the virus can also infect cats.
As of the moment, there are no reports of the infection spreading to humans.
Dog owners in Minnesota have begun preparing for the possibility of the canine influenza reaching their state.
While there is still no reported case dog flu in the state, experts believe that the likelihood of the infection spreading to the Minnesota remains high.
"We don't really know when the end of this outbreak is going to occur, so we need to continue to have heightened awareness," assistant professor Jennifer Granick of the University of Minnesota's veterinary clinical sciences, said.
"We need to make sure we have all of our protocols in order so that if and when we do see cases here, we can handle them."
Animal care centers in Minnesota are ready to provide treatment for infected dogs. Veterinarians in the state say that they will follow protocols for infectious disease, which includes isolating highly infectious dogs and wearing adequate protective gear to minimize exposure to the influenza virus.
"The virus strain that is in Illinois is not one that there is a vaccination for at this time, so we don't know if it's protective or not," Dr. Cynthia Fetzer, a veterinarian and owner of the Camden Pet Hospital in Minneapolis, said.
Local health officials have undertaken measures to control the spread of the infection. They urge dog owners to limit contact between their dogs at parks and other gathering areas. Animal health experts also recommend limiting nose-to-nose contact between their pets and unknown dogs. Owners should also take their dogs to the veterinarian as soon as possible if they suspect that their pets might have contracted the infection.
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