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Scientists Release Dog Flu Warning. Study Suggests Pandemic Is on the Rise

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Many of us consider our dogs to be official, four-legged family members. We want to do whatever we can to keep these faithful companions healthy, happy, and vibrant.

We also want to keep the other human members of our household fit and strong. So if you have a loyal pup in your life, you might want to be aware of some growing developments in the medical community.

Scientists have known for several years that the influenza virus can “jump” from birds to swine. Eventually, that same virus can then adapt itself to infect a human host.

This is made possible because several viral strains often exist simultaneously within a given animal population. Over time, those strains can start combining to create different variations.

When these new and unrecognized strains make their way into humans, our immune systems aren’t sufficiently equipped to defend us. In essence, that’s how the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 became such a sweeping concern.

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The virus began in certain avian populations, then moved into pigs. From there, it intermingled with pig viruses already present — basically, creating a new viral “cocktail” that could attack human beings.

Another group of studies shows that this sort of thing can actually happen between certain types of livestock and our domesticated dogs. Roughly 15 years ago, for instance, the first circulating canine influenza virus was documented when researchers identified a virus that had “jumped” from horse to canine.

Some of the newest experiments, recently recapped in the microbiology journal mBio, demonstrate that the influenza virus can now make its way from pigs into canines. As part of these studies, scientists at New York’s Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis Icahn School of Medicine examined dogs in Southern China.

The resulting data summary describes a “set of viruses that come from swine, that are originally avian in origin.” Researchers explain that some of these strains “are jumping into dogs, and have been re-assorted with other viruses in dogs.”

The scientists essentially found a version of H1N1 that’s not quite the same as the one responsible for the 2009 pandemic. Researchers will now begin testing this virus on human serum, to determine how much natural immunity is already present in people.

In short, humans may already be able to protect themselves from this specific strain. But because there’s so much dog breed diversity within our population, other types of viral “mixes” could theoretically occur in the future.

Because they now realize that certain viral combinations could make their way into dogs, researchers will be keeping an eye on the situation. Investigator Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre explains that if general risk seems high enough, new types of canine vaccinations may eventually be explored.

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Only time will tell if “dog flu” could actually become a concern in our human population. But we’re grateful for gifted scientists who have identified this potential issue, so they can monitor any new developments.

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Mary Bittel is a professional writer, marketer, and published author. She's produced content for several respected media organizations, and dozens of major industries including education, animal welfare, healthcare, finance, non-profit, technology, and entertainment. As an accomplished musician, she's also worked in a therapeutic teaching capacity with developmentally disabled children.
Mary Bittel is a professional writer, marketer, and published author. She's produced content for several respected media organizations, and dozens of major industries including education, animal welfare, healthcare, finance, non-profit, technology, and entertainment. As an accomplished musician, she's also worked in a therapeutic teaching capacity with developmentally disabled children. Additionally, she's an avid animal lover who has spent much of her life rehabilitating abused rescue canines.
Books Written
"The Hidden Treasury: Stories of Wonders and Wanderings"
Location
Illinois
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Music, Marketing, Nutrition, Fitness, Pet Care/Behavior, Cooking, Entertainment




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