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Canine flu cases popping up in Georgia
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Multiple cases of canine flu are popping up in Georgia after a dog show in Perry last month.

The flu surfaced in the state in May after a dog show at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, which is about 150 miles south of Gainesville. Since then, there have been three confirmed cases in Georgia, according to Georgia State Veterinarian Robert Cobb, and cases in other states.

Five cases of dog flu have been reported since the show, and three are the H3N2 strain that appeared in canines in the United States in 2015.

Popular dog shows often attract competitors throughout the region and potentially the nation.

Dogs infected with canine influenza virus will lose their appetite, cough, sneeze and run a fever, according to Cobb’s office. The illness can be treated, but usually isn’t life-threatening.

“It’s a lot like influenza in people,” said Assistant State Veterinarian Janemarie Hennebelle. “ … You can see a lot of dogs that actually show signs of illness, but fortunately we don’t see a lot of dogs that die from this particular strain of influenza or canine influenza in general.”

Many dogs don’t even need to be vaccinated against the virus. Hennebelle said the treatment is a “lifestyle vaccine,” meaning that “if your pet is at high risk for exposure to influenza then yes, it’s a good vaccine for your dog to have. If your dog doesn’t have a lifestyle that would put it at risk, then it’s probably not a big deal.”

Dogs who are spending time in kennels, in busy dog parks or at dog shows likely should be vaccinated, according to Hennebelle. In any case, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian about the virus and your pets.

There have been no reported cases of the flu in Hall County, Hennebelle said. The nearest case is in Cherokee County.

Unlike rabies, canine influenza isn’t a “reportable disease,” meaning that veterinarians aren’t required to alert the state to individual cases, according to Hennebelle. However, multiple cases of any disease among animal populations can be reported to the Georgia Department of Agriculture — which is how the state was made aware of these latest cases.

Canine flu is extremely contagious among dogs. Hennebelle said owners should keep their affected pets quarantined from other animals for at least three weeks after a dog stops showing symptoms.

In other words, a dog can still pass on the virus for three weeks after it appears to return to good health.

In 2016, the H3N2 virus was recorded in house cats in Indiana, which suggests it might be communicable between cats and dogs.

Hennebelle noted that the virus hasn’t been directly linked to a specific event — despite the June 5 announcement from the state veterinarian’s office discussing the dog show in Perry — and that the state was working to identify the source.

“In Georgia, our investigation is ongoing to try to determine the source of the outbreak,” she said.
“There are many dog shows that are taking place throughout the year … some of the cases do seem to have a connection to the show circuit, the dog show circuit, some cases do not.”

Hennebelle said the five recorded instances of canine flu aren’t concentrated in a particular area of the state.