CAPE CORAL, FLA. - A dangerous new dog flu strain is starting to spread some concern in the Western United States. A dog coming down with the H3N2 strain in Washington State has shifted the spotlight back on man's best friend.
"I didn't realize there was any kind of influenza outbreak, that was the first I have heard of it," said Larry Montrie, a Cape Coral dog owner. A few other dog owners expressed surprise and concern over the new strain.
The new strain has been a problem in other parts of the country. But there have been no reported cases in Florida,
"It is highly contagious," said Dr. Tara Boozer, a veterinarian at Kindness Animal Hospital in Cape Coral. "As far as they know now humans can't get it but we can easily spread it," she added.
Dr. Boozer says it is possible for the strain to reach Southwest Florida thanks to seasonal visitors. "We have a lot of people who come from Chicago and a lot of people that come from Georgia and those were the main two outbreaks," said Dr. Boozer. "It was mainly around Atlanta in Georgia and Chicago that's how the Washington strain got it. They got it from a dog in Atlanta," she added.
In addition, Dr. Boozer says it is possible dog flu could come to Southwest Florida, but said she is confident health officials would know what to do based on how other communities have handled it.
"They started quarantining everybody. making sure they pretty much shut down dog parks, shut down boarding facilities and completely sterilized everything," said Dr. Boozer about how Chicago was able to overcome their outbreak in April 2015.
Health officials urge worried dog owners to just be mindful of the symptoms. These include: trouble breathing, coughing, loss of appetite, and being lethargic.
If you have any questions it is best to contact your vet. There is a vaccine for the old strain and new strain. However, the vaccine for the new strain still has the "conditional" label attached to it and still needs to undergo further testing before it can be removed.