Thanks to researchers at Kansas State University, a vaccine for the epidemic H3N2 canine flu virus, which has now spread to 13 states across the country, may be developed.
A case of the flu was reported in Minnesota today. The H3N2 virus has already been confirmed in Illinois (more than 1,500 dogs have been infected in the Chicago area), Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin.
Most at risk for becoming infected with H3N2 are puppies, older dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems. While most dogs recover within 10 to 30 days, some have developed serious issues, such as pneumonia. Six dogs have died from H3N2.
There is currently a vaccine for another strain of dog flu, the H3N8 virus, but it’s not known if it is effective against this new strain.
Before dogs became sick in the Chicago area, H3N2 had never been reported in the United States, but there have been outbreaks in China and South Korea since 2006. H3N2 is believed to have been brought to the U.S. by a dog from Asia, or a dog who visited Asia and became infected.
Today Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory officials announced that the H3N2 research they’ve been conducting has given them new insight into this strain. They will now be able to test dogs specifically for H3N2, and their findings may lead to the development of a vaccine.
“We can perform hemagglutinin and neuraminidase gene sequencing — the H and N portions of the strain — on a sample that is positive for canine influenza,” Ben Hause, an assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, said in a news release.
“This gene sequencing will allow us to compare how close of a genetic match the virus in the sample is to other canine influenza isolates and provide important epidemiological information, allowing us to track how the virus is evolving in dogs.”
This discovery is important for designing a vaccine and determining if the virus is mutating, Hause said.
The test for the H3N2 virus is currently only available at the KSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, but its availability will likely grow as the flu continues to spread.
Click here for tips on preventing your dog from getting the H3N2 virus.
Photo credit: bazusa