Cases of canine influenza confirmed in southern Ontario

A public health authority in southern Ontario says it has confirmed what they believe to be the first two known cases of canine influenza in Canada.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says the H3N2 strain of the virus was detected by a veterinarian in dogs imported by an adoption agency from South Korea via the United States.

“A small number of dogs that had close contact with the affected dogs also have mild respiratory disease, but test results from those animals are not yet available,” the health unit said in a press release.

“Canine influenza virus is of concern because it is highly transmissible between dogs, particularly in areas (such as Canada) where dogs do not have natural immunity from previous infection and where canine influenza vaccination is rare,” the health agency explained.

“There is no known human risk from H3N2 canine influenza virus; however, the risk of reassortment (or mixing together) between the canine H3N2 virus and human seasonal influenza viruses is a potential concern,” the health unit added.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, acting medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, said that canine influenza is “actually pretty common in South Korea but it’s not seen here.”

Like the human forms of influenza, most dogs that get the disease will recover from it without any issues, he said.

Dr. Ahmed said canine influenza is not known to be transmissible to humans, but may be transmissible to cats.

Dr. Kate Sweetman, a Windsor veterinarian, said that there is no reason for pet owners to panic if they suspect canine influenza.

However, Dr. Sweetman advises pet owners to call their veterinarians to discuss whether they should bring their pets to the clinic.

“Putting your dog in a waiting room where there’s other dogs could help spread the canine influenza,” she explained.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said that the disease can be “highly contagious” so care must be taken with sick dogs.

“Dogs with signs of respiratory disease (e.g. cough, decreased appetite, nasal and eye discharge, and fever) should be kept away from others dogs for at least two weeks,” the health unit said.
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