Researchers say a recent canine influenza outbreak that has sickened more than 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area is a strain of the virus that has never been seen before in the United States.
According to laboratory scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin, the outbreak creating an epidemic in the Chicago area is caused by a strain closely related to Asian strains of the influenza A H3N2 viruses.
“This virus has only been seen in Korea and China and our cases in Chicago are the first of its kind on our soil," Kimberly Cerny, the practice manager at Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, said in a statement.
According to researchers, officials initially believed the Midwest outbreak was caused by the H3N8 strain of the virus, which was first identified in the U.S. in 2004.
Veterinarians say the new strain of the virus is more virulent than previous strains, allowing animals to develop the disease faster.
Both strains of the virus can cause high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge and lethargy. Symptoms could be more severe in cases caused by the H3N2 virus.
Officials have said the recent outbreak has killed at least five dogs and sickened more than 1,000 others. The virus can live on fabrics and hard surfaces and can be transmitted from person dog if the person has been in contact with a dog carrying the virus.
While researchers say there’s no evidence the virus can be transmitted to human, veterinarians warn the new strain can also affect cats, causing them to contract a similar respiratory disease.
Donna Alexander, the administrator for the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, said dogs experiencing any of the symptoms should be seen by vet. Alexander also recommended avoiding dog-to-dog contact, group training, dog parks and boarding facilities.