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Veterinary Forum April 2008 (Vol 25, No 4)

CIV circulated at least 5 years before discovery

    ATLANTA — The canine influenza virus (CIV) had been circulating for at least 5 years before its discovery in 2004 and may have caused numerous outbreaks of respiratory disease among dogs at racetracks during that period, according to a study presented here at the 2008 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    "We have demonstrated that the virus was in the greyhound population as early as 1999, and we speculate it was likely introduced sometime before that," said Tara Anderson, DVM, a graduate student (MPH, PhD) at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

    Caused by the H3N8 influenza virus, CIV produces two clinical syndromes in dogs — a milder form with upper respiratory infection and a severe form that leads to pneumonia. Because the virus is a novel pathogen, virtually all exposed dogs become infected and nearly 80% show clinical signs, but most affected dogs have the mild form. The fatality rate of severe cases is between 5% and 8%.

    The first recognized outbreak of CIV occurred in racing greyhounds in January 2004 at a track in Florida. From June to August 2004, outbreaks of respiratory disease were reported at 14 tracks in six states. Between January and May 2005, outbreaks occurred at 20 tracks in 11 states. In June 2006, outbreaks occurred at three tracks in Florida. Infection also has been confirmed in pet dogs in 25 states and in Washington, D.C.

    Anderson and her colleagues acquired greyhound blood samples taken from 1999 to 2004 from Hemopet, an animal blood bank in California that uses retired greyhounds as donors, and tested the samples for antibodies to CIV.

    "For most dogs, we had 2 to 3 years' worth of samples, so we were able to follow up with the same dog from year to year to see if it maintained antibody levels," Anderson said in a release.

    In 1999, 33% of the samples tested positive for antibodies to both viruses. Antibodies also were detected in samples collected in 2000 (38%), 2001 (19%), 2003 (44%) and 2004 (28%). Tracking the dogs using their ear tattoos, the researchers determined that seropositive greyhounds were present at tracks or farms in a number of states during respiratory disease outbreaks in 1998, 1999 and 2003.

    "Based on the serologic evidence, we concluded that influenza A H3N8 virus was circulating in the racing greyhound population as early as 1999," Anderson said.

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