As humans face the growing possibility of a deadly flu pandemic our four legged friends demonstrate just how much they have in common with us. A deadly influenza strain that has jumped from horses to dogs is producing headlines similar to what we can expect to see when the next human influenza pandemic hits. The horse influenza H3N8 has mutated and jumped to dogs and killed greyhounds in 7 states.
The virus, which scientists say mutated from an influenza strain that affects horses, has killed racing greyhounds in seven states and has been found in shelters and pet shops in many places, including the New York suburbs, though the extent of its spread is unknown.
The virus is an H3N8 flu closely related to an equine flu strain. It is not related to typical human flus or to the H5N1 avian flu that has killed about 100 people in Asia.
Fido, Spot, and Rover are in danger. But humans can control the spread of a canine influenza outbreak a lot more easily than they can control a human outbreak. Humans travel greater distances and congregate together a lot more. While Rover is at home in the backyard waiting for people to come home and barking plaintively through the fence at dogs getting walked Johnnie is at grade school fighting with Billy, Bobby, Biff, and Brett on the playground and passing pathogens around in the process. His sister Jill is playing pattie cakes with Suzie and Taylor and passing along germs too. Johnnie's Dad is flying back from a business meeting in Singapore with regional manangers from Thailand, Canton, and Indonesia. Mom is at Pilates with a bunch of other women all touching the same floors, door knobs, and railings with their sweaty skin. Or maybe Mom is carrying on an affair with another law firm partner. Oh, and Mom's sister is waitressing at a busy packed restaurant to work through law school.
There is no evidence that it has spread to humans, or that it ever will. But at a Monday press conference, federal officials said they are monitoring the health of exposed dog owners -- because a virus that jumps species once could do it again.
"We have never been able to document a single case of human infection with this virus,'' said Ruben Donis, a researcher with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and principal author of the study.
But a virus that has managed to hop into dogs might now be closer to human compatibility. Anyone have scientific reasons to think this might be the case?
"We are going to monitor all cases of human exposure, but at this point there is no reason to panic," said Ruben Donis of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Donis noted that it has been known for about 40 years that the virus causes the flu in horses, with no reports of its infecting humans. Tests also indicate it is sensitive to antiviral drugs.
Although the mortality rate from the new flu virus remains unclear, so far it appears to kill 5 to 8 percent of infected dogs.
Well, what a human-centric attitude. Don't panic? Imagine a pandemic flu virus that killed 8% of humans was in the lose. Oh wait, the CDC would still say there is no reason to panic. But that only makes sense. There's never any reason to panic. Panic is a maladaptive response. But sometimes desperate measures are called for. Just stay level headed.
Since the dog flu is responsive to Tamiflu and amantadine I see this as yet another reason to stockpile Tamiflu. Fido's life might depend on it. What if a human pandemic breaks out, you stay totally healthy, but Fido comes down with a bad case of the flu? I can tell you right now that those human-centric public health authorities aren't going to let you get any Tamiflu for Spot or Scooby Do. No way. You have to stock up ahead of time if you want to protect your dog during a human flu pandemic.
The C.D.C., which is tracking the disease, issued no official recommendations. But Dr. Crawford urged pet owners to continue to walk healthy dogs, visit dog runs, use boarding kennels and otherwise let animals congregate.
But, Dr. Crawford added, owners should "use common sense," including isolating dogs with any symptoms of respiratory disease for up to two weeks and alerting a veterinarian's office before taking in a sick dog for treatment.
But we need continued press coverage of this problem. Dog owners need to know when H3N8 comes to their neighborhoods.
Dr. Brad Fenwick, vice president for research at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, said he thinks mortality from this flu is even less than estimated by Crawford. If infected dogs are treated, mortality can be much lower, Fenwick said in a telephone interview.
From the CDC press conference: Dr. Ruben Donis:
So what about the implications for public health? We must keep in mind that this H3N8 equine influenza virus has been in horses for over 40 years. In all these years, we have never been able to document and single case of human infection with this virus. So that is something that I want everybody to take note of so to dispel, you know, major panic. That's not to say that there isn't any risk. We are going to monitor all cases of possible human exposure, but, this point, there is no reason to panic.
Dr. Cynda Crawford:
Only a minority of dogs, a small number of dogs, experience complications such as pneumonia, just like the humans infected with influenza, certain populations of humans are more prone to development of pneumonia. And it's a small number of humans compared to everyone else.
So that is the same with canine influenza virus. It's a small population of dogs that will develop complications, most likely bacterial complications and these dogs do need to be--have their treatment supervised by a veterinarian.
In addition, since not all dogs will show a clinical syndrome, showing that they have a respiratory infection, there is a minority that are infected with the virus, but will not show clinical signs to announce to everybody that “I am sick.” And it is very difficult to find these dogs in the dog population. And we're working on a more rapid means of identification.
If bacterial infection sets in as a complication that obviously can get treated by antibiotics. Also, Tamiflu and amantadine can slow the virus itself.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2005 September 27 02:05 PM Dangers Natural Bio|