An Asian strain of the influenza virus, which caused a surge in flu cases that began during the long, cold winter and is still threatening schools in the Midwest, may have been spread, at least in part, through businesses that babysit dogs for their many customers, experts say
A doggy day care (YuJin Lim via Flickr)
Health officials in Wisconsin and New York have identified the canine influenza virus strain responsible for a large portion of flu cases as H3N2.
“It’s believed that the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia, but how it happened is not known,” says Keith Poulsen, a diagnostic and case outreach coordinator and clinical assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. “The commercially available vaccines for CIV are made to protect against the H3N8 strain, and their effectiveness against the H3N2 strain is unknown at this time, but it is likely to be less effective.”
As a result, even dogs that are vaccinated against the flu may not be well protected against the new strain of CIV. When those dogs come into contact with other dogs, say, at a doggy day care kennel, the virus spreads to new hosts and then to humans when they pick up their dogs. At least that’s one way the virus has been shown to spread.
The CIV, or dog flu, outbreak in Chicago caused one school to close for two days, and another school district, in Oak Park, Ill., just west of Chicago, to record more than 600 student absences on a single day in December, the Chicago Tribune reported. More than a dozen school districts in the Cook County suburbs reported clusters of students suffering from the flu.
The number of reported absences in March wasn’t as severe as it was earlier in the season, but it still represents an uptick in flu cases, according to an article in the Naperville Sun.