New Dog Flu Strain Reported in China


Why do these things seem to always begin in China? There appears to be a new dog flu strain there, and if it is there, it’s possibly only a matter of time before it gets here.

A paper recently published in Frontiers in Microbiology published the paper called “Emergence of a novel reassortant H3N6 canine influenza virus” warns of a potential threat but more more needs to be learned.

Although the natural hosts of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) are wild birds, multiple subtypes of AIVs have established epidemics in numerous mammals due to their cross-species spillover. This is what influenza (and other) viruses often do. Because of their large population and intimacy with humans, dogs could act as such an intermedia host. To monitor the epidemiology of canine influenza viruses (CIVs) in Liaoning, China, researchers performed three surveillances in November 2018, March 2019, and April 2019. Five H3N2 and seven novel H3N6 CIVs had been isolated.

It’s a lot of letters and numbers. H3N2 is one of the two established dog flu’s in the U.S. The other is H3N8. There are only two strains of dog flu in the U.S. or Canada, unlike the myriad of various influenza strains which impact humans.

Good news is that reports of dog flu in the U.S. and Canada have calmed down a lot, though it doesn’t mean that either of the two canine influenza strains have disappeared. Vaccines have helped to lower the incidents, as well as good luck and mother nature. H3N6 would be new, and should it get to the Western hemisphere, no dog would have immunity.

Researchers say the H3N6 Canine Influenza Virus found in China showed increased mammalian adaptation ability compared to all the H3N2 strains in both in vitro and in vivo studies. Even though isolated three months later, the March 2019 isolated H3N2 viruses replicated more efficiently than the November 2018 isolated viruses. Scary, as the study indicated that this new strain was undergoing an evolution process, through both genetic mutations and gene reassortment, at an incredible speed. No word from this study on how this strain of flu impacts canine health, how sick the dogs get. Or whether or not current U.S. vaccines could offer any cross-protection.

Even with efforts to medically check all dogs entering the Western hemisphere – if this novel canine flu takes hold in China, it’s likely just a matter of time before we see it here, unless it burns itself out in China, which is also very possible.

Also, researchers are worried about the potential for the virus to one day infect people, though it’s important to understand that neither previous dog flu strains have affected humans.