A highly contagious widespread canine virus affecting parts of Asia and the United States has made its way to Canada.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) has confirmed two dogs in Essex County have H3N2 canine influenza, the first known cases in Canada.
The health unit said in a press release Monday that the dogs were imported from South Korea, through the United States in late December and showed signs of “respiratory disease the following day when they were examined by a veterinarian.”
Officials said a number of dogs that came into close contact with the infected also have symptoms, but the WECHU said H3N2 has not been confirmed.
The WECHU said the virus is “highly transmissible” between dogs and listed a few important points about the disease.
- Most dogs that develop influenza do not get seriously ill. A respiratory disease that is indistinguishable from other infectious respiratory diseases (canine infectious respiratory disease complex, also known as “kennel cough”) usually occurs, although serious (including fatal) infections and/or complications can develop.
- Infected dogs can shed influenza virus for a short time prior to the onset of disease. So, dogs that appear to be healthy are still a potential source of infection.
- Canine influenza vaccines can reduce the risk of disease and are available from veterinarians in Canada.
- Cats can be infected but this appears to be rare.
There is also “no known human risk,” the WECHU said, but the concern is if an infected dog comes into contact with a strain of the human flu and those mix together to create a new virus.
The investigation and response are ongoing.
Dog owners in Windsor and Essex County are asked to be “vigilant” in keeping an eye out for symptoms in their pets.
Dogs with signs of respiratory disease, such as cough, decreased appetite, nasal and eye discharge and fever should be kept from other dogs for at least two weeks, officials said.
The WECHU also said that if someone plans to bring an infected dog to a veterinarian with any of those symptoms, to inform the clinic in advance so the dog can be admitted using “isolation procedures.”
Along with the WECHU, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph are involved in the investigation.