An Asian strain of the canine influenza virus, H3N2, is ravaging dogs in the Chicago area “according to a press release issued by Cornell University, home to the New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.”

The “Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control (CCDARC) is cautioning dog owners that a recent increase in reported cases of canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) could last for several weeks before it subsides.”

More than 1,000 cases of canine influenza and sadly five fatalities have been reported.

Symptoms in the infected dogs, ranging from under 1 year to 7 years of age, include persistent and lingering cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite and a fever.

Local animal health officials are recommending

that until incidents of the disease diminish, dog owners should avoid pet friendly areas such as dog parks, not allow their dogs to play with other dogs, avoid group dog training activities, and, if possible, not board their pets.

Scientists from Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin

say results from . . .testing indicate that the outbreak is being caused by a virus closely related to Asian strains of influenza  . . . viruses, currently in wide circulation in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations since being identified in 2006. There is no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans.  The H3N2 virus had not been previously detected in North America. The outbreak in Chicago suggests a recent introduction of the H3N2 virus from Asia.”

Which begs the question-how did it get here?

The CDC and USDA have concerns about dogs and puppies imported from countries without proper vaccinations, with forged importation documents, or potentially infected with contagious, infectious disease.  While there is no definitive proof that the current canine influenza outbreak was introduced from imported, infected dogs, that is certainly one possibility.

But there are others.  Influenza viruses are fairly easily transmitted in animals, people and inanimate objects, so the current outbreak may not have been introduced from imported infected dogs.

However, since the movement of dogs across national and state lines for rescue or adoption poses a risk of disease transmission, additional regulations and enforcement thereof should be a priority to protect animals and people from unnecessary exposure to infectious, potentially deadly diseases.