Emergence of canine influenza

Canine flu strikes in Westchester county, NY.

A NEW strain of influenza that began infecting dogs in Florida early last year has recently struck hard in the Westchester area, forcing the temporary closure of two kennels after more than 100 dogs being boarded there became ill, veterinary officials say.

Gracelane Kennels in Ossining underwent decontamination after a viral illness infected dogs. Eddie Loga hoses down a run at the kennel. Although prepared for the less-virulent kennel cough, boarding sites have been blindsided by the new virus.

At least one of the dogs has since died. The two sites, Gracelane Kennels in Ossining and a branch of Best Friends Pet Care in Chestnut Ridge in Rockland County, have undergone decontamination procedures.

The symptoms mimic those of bordetella, a less virulent illness commonly known as kennel cough, for which all dogs must be vaccinated before they are boarded. Health officials fear that this similarity has contributed to underreporting of the spread of the new illness, both locally and nationally.

There is not yet any vaccine for the new virus, which is believed to have jumped from horses to dogs last year.

This once again shows how badly we need good surveillance for zoonotic diseases. Here we have an influenza strain that’s already jumped species, is likely causing more illness than is being attributed to it, and has been shown to be potentially lethal in the new population. I’ve no doubt that similar events are happening all the time, and we’re missing them–and therefore, missing chances to intervene before they become established in the new population. But I guess, why pay for public health funding, when there’s wars to be fought?

Edited to add: Previous article.

The virus, which scientists say mutated from an influenza strain that affects horses, has killed racing greyhounds in seven states and has been found in shelters and pet shops in many places, including the New York suburbs, though the extent of its spread is unknown.

How many dogs die from the virus is unclear, but scientists said the fatality rate is more than 1 percent and could be as high as 10 percent among puppies and older dogs.

They say it’s killed greyhounds in Iowa as well…first I’ve heard of it. Which again underscores that folks in veterinary public health need to be in better touch with those of us in human public health as well.

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