WASHINGTON, DC (CBS Local) – In recent years, Americans have been told to be on guard for various strains of influenza including “bird flu” and “swine flu.” A new report is now warning that the next deadly flu pandemic may be carried by dogs.
Research, published in the journal mBio, warns that the flu can jump from pigs to dogs and the diversity of flu strains found in canines is continuing to grow. Similar disturbing trends were found during the 2009 pandemic, which spread the H1N1 virus from birds to humans.
“In our study, what we have found is another set of viruses that come from swine that are originally avian in origin, and now they are jumping into dogs and have been re-assorted with other viruses in dogs,” Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said in a press release.
“We now have H1N1, H3N2, and H3N8 in dogs… The diversity in dogs has increased so much now that the type of combinations of viruses that can be created in dogs represent potential risk for a virus to jump to a dog into a human.”
Dr. García-Sastre credits U.S. health regulations regarding animals for ridding avian flu from the country and says the same measures should be taken with pigs. “There are attempts to restrict influenza virus in pigs through vaccination and one could consider vaccination for dogs.”
According to the CDC, this year’s flu season has matched a 2013 record for the most deaths among children with 171. About 80 percent of the deaths were reportedly among children who had not been given a flu shot.