H3N2 strain of canine flu may not be prevented by current vaccine

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Chicago veterinary clinics seeing instances of illness in vaccinated pets.

After a break of a little more than a month with few cases of canine flu being reported in Chicago, confirmed cases of the H3N2 strain have been reported in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, according to Veterinary Specialty Center in Chicago. Of note, a new development is that several of the new cases are in dogs that received the vaccine for the H3N8 strain. This is the first indication, though there are only a few instances to study, that there may be little or no cross-protection with the existing vaccine, the clinic says. 

Officials recommend staying away from areas where groups of dogs congregate, such as dog parks.

From March to May, Chicago was the site of more than 1,000 confirmed cases of canine influenza, with the strain being identified as one that's usually found in Asia. Following the outbreak in Chicago, influenza cases have been found in more than a dozen states, according to data from the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Both strains of influenza cause fever, cough, nasal and ocular discharge, sneezing, lethargy and anorexia. Dogs that are severely affected can have a high fever with increased respiratory rate and other signs of pneumonia or bronchopneumonia.

The virus is highly contagious, and though there is no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans, it can affect cats. At press time, there had only been one confirmed case of a cat in New York becoming ill from H3N2, according to data from IDEXX Laboratories. The cat presented with a one-week history of mild respiratory signs progressing to general malaise, lethargy and inappetance. It was treated and has since made a full recovery.

Officials recommend pet owners stay away from areas where groups of dogs congregate such as parks or daycare facilities. Dogs or cats displaying the above symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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