Dog Flu Outbreak

September 21, 2021

Health officials in Los Angeles County have reported significant outbreaks of canine influenza (H3N2), according to Outbreak News Today. As of September 17, 2021, this is the largest outbreak of its kind in the county which saw cases double since the initial outbreak in August.

What is dog flu?

Canine influenza, also known as canine flu or dog flu, is a highly contagious airborne disease in dogs that can cause respiratory infection with symptoms including coughing, fever, lethargy, and nasal discharge. Pneumonia may develop in severe cases (typically very young, elderly, or immunocompromised dogs). The H3N2 strain of the dog flu virus was first identified in the U.S. in 2015 when it was detected in Chicago before spreading to other parts of the country. On rare occasions, the H3N2 virus can infect cats.

How is dog flu transmitted?

Because canine influenza is a highly contagious airborne and aerosolized disease it can spread quickly in settings where dogs gather including dog boarding and doggie daycare facilities, animal shelters, dog parks, and dog-friendly establishments. When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, barks, sheds, or pants, the virus is carried through the air. Heavier droplets will land on surfaces—bowls, toys, kennels, etc.—while smaller, aerosolized particles (also known as aerosols) travel through the air before being inhaled into the lungs of another host. An infected dog will begin showing symptoms of canine influenza within 2-4 days. We have all become familiar with this mode of aerosolized transmission thanks to the human COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the impact of dog flu?

While, thankfully, most dogs contract a mild form of the virus—only 10-20% contract the more severe form—no one wants to see a dog in any distress, even a mild cough. And, for professional pet care providers, even mild cases can result in big impacts as outbreaks can force businesses to shut down to prevent further transmission. Although shutdowns are usually brief, the long-term impact on reputation can be considerable.

Preventing the spread of dog flu

As noted previously, the current dog flu outbreak in Los Angeles County is caused by H3N2 which was not detected in the U.S. until 2015, but it’s not the first dog flu strain to wreak havoc in the country. In 2004, the H3N8 strain of the dog flu virus was diagnosed in greyhounds at a racing track in Florida. Science indicates the virus mutated to cross-species from horses to infect dogs. Within three months of being detected, the H3N8 strain was impacting dogs in various regions and, today has been reported throughout most of the U.S. As we’ve learned with the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, virus strains can be an ever-evolving target. Thankfully, for the first line of defense, there are vaccines in place for both H3N2 and H3N8 strains of canine flu but many dog boarding and doggie daycare facilities require only the kennel cough vaccine (Bordetella), not the dog flu vaccines. Further, the H3N8 vaccine requires two shots, two weeks apart, which requires pet parents to plan ahead—not always an option in emergency situations. In short, dog flu vaccines should be part of an overall mitigation strategy, but they are not a guarantee against infection.

Air disinfection for dog flu

Along with rigorous surface cleaning routines, thoroughly disinfecting bowls, toys, kennels, equipment, etc., sanitizing the air offers another critical line of defense to help prevent the spread of dog flu. Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is used in human settings to prevent the spread of infectious airborne diseases and the same principle applies for animal care.

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, commonly known as UVGI or, more simply, UV, is a term used when referring to UV-C. The ultraviolet spectrum has three bands (better known as UV rays):

  • UV-A: causes wrinkling, sagging, and premature aging of the skin.
  • UV-B: causes sunburns and skin cancer.
  • UV-C: germicidal and lethal to microorganisms.

Germicidal UV-C is commonly used in human healthcare settings and is a well-documented and proven means of air disinfection. UV helps eliminate infectious pathogens, like the H3N2 virus, in the air before they can be inhaled or settle out on surfaces.

Types of UV devices for air disinfection

UV for HVAC. UV lights are installed within HVAC systems. Air is disinfected as it passes by the UV before circulating back through the space. This UV is also used to remove HVAC unit biofilm and keep coils clean.

Upper air UV. Upper air (also known as upper room) UV devices are mounted in the upper portion of rooms on walls or ceilings. As airborne—aerosolized—infectious pathogens rise toward the ceiling (think of smoke rising) they can be destroyed with UV-C rays emitted by the mounted unit. When UV devices are properly designed and installed (as with all Aerapy products) animals and humans can occupy the space while the UV is engaged.

Aerapy for dog flu prevention

Aerapy Animal Health, originally founded as PetAirapy in 2008 to serve the animal care industry, knows the ins and outs of animal care. We understand wherever animals are housed together there is a risk of infectious disease outbreaks whether veterinary hospital, pet boarding facility, dog daycare, mobile groomer, animal shelter, or zoo. This is why we offer a variety of researched, tested, and study-backed UV disinfection systems to meet the needs of every sector of animal care. Our UV disinfection technology is proven to kill more than 99.9% of tested virus and bacterial pathogens and is a critical line of defense in a multipronged infection control strategy that includes sanitizing the air.

For more information on dog flu, visit our dedicated animal disease page here. To learn more about Aerapy Animal Health UV technology for infection control at your animal care business, contact us for a free UV consultation.

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