NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A dangerous, sometimes even deadly virus is moving closer to Louisiana.
"It's a lot like the start out of human flu," said LSPCA Community Clinic Associate Veterinarian April Ulmer. "There are some in our surrounding states, and so it's a matter of time before we do see cases."
Right now, there are no known cases in Louisiana. But according to Cornell University, hundreds of dogs in the Midwest were infected with H3N2 canine influenza. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that particular strain was first detected in the U.S. last month. Ulmer says it can be deadly if not caught early.
"This is a new virus in our community, and so dogs don't have any natural immunity to this virus," Ulmer said. "About 10 percent of dogs have fatalities from this. If it's caught early and treated, the dog, of course, has a better chance."
That has dog owners in New Orleans concerned.
"It's quite alarming, and I will go actually take steps, hopefully, to address it as soon as possible," said dog owner Peter Tattersall.
The CDC says there is a vaccine for canine influenza, but they don't yet know whether it will protect against the new strain. The vet we talked to believes getting the vaccine is better than nothing.
"Your best bet if you are concerned is to make an appointment with a veterinarian and discuss your dog's risks and to see if you need to have this dog vaccinated or not, and to learn the signs of the disease so you can watch for it," Ulmer said.
The CDC adds there is no evidence that this strain of flu can be spread from dogs to people. But it has been known to affect cats in Asia. We're told dogs who travel, go to the dog park or doggy daycare, and those who are boarded, are more susceptible to the virus. That's because it's spread through direct contact with another dog or even through things like kennels or dog bowls.
Symptoms include cough, runny nose and fever, but not all dogs will show signs that they're sick.