The first thing you need to know about dog flu: People can’t get dog flu. At least that’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
“To date, there is no evidence of transmission of dog flu viruses from dogs to people and there have been no reported human infections with the canine influenza viruses,” the CDC wrote. “… CDC considers the human health risk posed by this dog flu outbreak to be low at this time.”
This is not an Ebola-like situation. However, dogs are supposed to be man’s best friends, so let’s investigate further.
Most dog flu cases have been seen in Illinois, where an estimated 1,000 dogs contracted a strain called H3N2, as USA Today reported. But dog flu has also been found in Alabama, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana. (For a map from Cornell University’s animal health diagnostic center, click here.) And a case was just found in Georgia.
The spread of dog flu, particularly in major population centers, is scary because dogs can give dog flu to other dogs — and H3N2, which may have come from bird markets in Asia, has been known to jump from dog to cat.
“The virus spreads from nose to nose (or direct) contact between dogs,” Keith Poulsen, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told USA Today. “As people travel and expose dogs to other dogs with the virus, they will bring the virus back to their hometown. This is how the virus has spread from the Chicago area to Wisconsin, Iowa and Texas. Similar to how respiratory disease spreads at a daycare or airport — people sneezing and coughing on each other.”
But what does dog flu look like?
“Signs of dog flu infection in dogs include cough, runny nose and fever, but not all dogs will show signs of illness,” the CDC wrote. “The severity of illness associated with dog flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death in dogs.” Poulsen put the mortality rate at 3 percent or less.
Dogs with the flu should stay on leash and away from other dogs. Dogs can be vaccinated, but it may not be necessary if they don’t live in areas where dog flu has appeared. But for dogs in infected regions — particularly those that are boarded, go to doggy-day care or see other dogs often — owners might want to consider vaccination, however.