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Sudden Onset of Fatal H3N8 in Greyhounds in Northeast

Recombinomics Commentary

May 14, 2005

>>       "In no way was it negligence," she said. "You can have a dog looking absolutely fine and four hours later it's on death's door." <<

The sudden onset of the fatal infection parallels bird flu infections by H5N1 in chickens in Vietnam, and H1N1 in pandemic influenza in 1918.  In Vietnam, entire flocks of chickens can appear to be fine in the morning and dead by noon with blood oozing from every orifice.  Similarly, anecdotal reports on the 1918 pandemic included people who sat down to play bridge and literally fell over dead at the table, or commuters who died while taking a subway ride.

The large number of greyhound deaths this season is without precedence, suggesting the H3N8 isolates from last season have changed, particularly in the northeast.  There was a late surge of human influenza cases in the northeast due to California/7 H3N2, which swept across the United States in February and March.  Immunizations against the Fujian-like strain (Wyoming/3) provided reduced levels of protection.  The H3N2 resurgence was accompanied by clusters of meningitis deaths of students.

Since both H3N8 and H3N2 isolates have antigenically similar hemagglutinin surface proteins, recombination or reassortment is possible.  Additional sequence data on last season's H3N8 and isolates from Florida and the northeast would be useful.

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