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Bird Flu Infecting Domestic Dogs in the United States?

Recombinomics Commentary

May 13, 2005

>>  Revere's Wonderland dog track has been struck by the deadly contagion.

    Two more greyhounds died there Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 18 in roughly a week. In Rhode Island, 13 dogs have died at Lincoln Park.

As vets battle the epidemic, state officials are now scrambling to nail down exactly what is killing the dogs - and to prove whether it is linked to the flu-like killer that has affected an estimated 10,000 dogs nationwide. These include a few hundred domestic dogs as well.  <<

The flu-like killer sounds remarkably like the avian influenza isolated from a fatal infection of a greyhound.  That isolate, A/canine/Florida/43/04(H3N8), was 96-99% homologous in all 8 genes to recent H3N8 equine isolates in the United Sates.

The spread of the virus to a few hundred domestic dogs would be cause for concern.  Although H3N8 is an avian virus, it causes equine influenza.  Last year was the first reported isolation from dogs, but fatal greyhound outbreaks have been reported in Florida earlier this season. Now the fatal infections have spread nationwide.  The largest number of fatal cases appears to be in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Although H3N8 has not been reported in humans, testing of antibodies in track workers is scheduled for this summer. H3 serotypes are in human influenza such as H3N2, which was also very prevalent in New England this season.  Spread of H3N8 among domestic dogs could increase exposure of humans to H3N8, which could lead to recombination and emergence of new strains. 

In Florida, the sudden death of a12 year-old Wesley Chapel girl was never linked to the petting zoo cases and a cause of death was not reported.  Details of a Wisconsin case were also not reported.  Further testing for H3N8 antibodies may be useful.

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