"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, September 22, 2005
A new, highly contagious and sometimes deadly canine flu is spreading in kennels and dog tracks around the country, veterinarians said yesterday.
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, though the extent of its spread is unknown.
Cynda Crawford, an immunologist at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine who is studying the virus, said it spread most easily where dogs were housed together, but it can also be passed on the street, in dog runs, or even by a human transferring it from one dog to another. Kennel workers have carried the virus home with them, she said.
How many dogs die from the virus is unclear, but scientists said the fatality rate was more than 1 percent and could be as high as 10 percent among puppies and older dogs.
Dog owners should be aware of the symptoms - coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, and a high fever - but probably need not panic given the relatively low fatality rate. Most deaths apparently have resulted from a secondary pneumonia infection which, if properly diagnosed, can be treated with antibiotics.
I mention all this not only because I am a concerned dog owner but also because the mechanism of inter-species flu transmission is interesting, given the potential avian flu problem. In particular, I found this aside from the article cited above especially disconcerting:
[Crawford] added that because dogs had no natural immunity to the virus, virtually every animal exposed would be infected.
Something to think about.