CHICAGO (NBC News) - Researchers say a strain of a dog flu virus that has never been seen before in the United States is wreaking havoc on pets in Illinois.
So far, at least 1,100 dogs in Chicago have come down with the highly contagious strain of canine flu. Six of those dogs have died.
The current outbreak, which is the largest and longest lasting in the region, is caused by a strain that is related to the Asian strains of the flu virus, scientists said.
Veterinarians began reporting cases of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease in January .
Symptoms include persistent and lingering cough, lethargic behavior, poor appetite and a fever.
Humans cannot get the dog flu but they can spread it.
Experts in Chicago say until the outbreaks slow down, dog owners should avoid pet-friendly areas like dog parks, avoid group dog training activities and not board their pets.
“They think this strain is more virulent,” said Dr. Julia Georgesen. “Meaning animals get more sick and they get sick for a longer duration of time. Also this strain can affect cats. We’ve not seen any cases of that.”