I’m not sure if it’s the media, the hype over the impending swine flu H1N1 pandemic, or the fact that things really are bad this year, but we simply can’t escape talk of the flu, can we?
In my town, a healthy little 5 year old girl came down with H1N1 last week, and died. Where I’m not normally the kind of person to hover over my kids and go running to the doctor at every little sniff, this week I’m on edge. And hovering. Sniffle? Might be a cold. Might be swine flu. Stomach pains sending my daughter home from school? Might be gas. Might be swine flu. The unimpressed nurse at my pediatrician’s office said we can’t be seen until tomorrow, so I’ll spend the night with a thermometer stuck in my daughter’s ear every 10 minutes making sure she isn’t developing a spiky fever.
If that wasn’t enough, word on the street is that a ferret in Portland was recently diagnosed with H1N1. I don’t know a great deal about ferrets as a reservoir species (they are illegal in my state) but that is just one more thing we don’t need to have to be worrying about, is it? They do think the ferret caught it from the human, and not vice versa, though I’m sure that won’t stop them from being falsely accused at some point of being ground zero for some new Andromeda Strain if it sells a few more newspapers. The most excellent Dr. Janet at About.com has more information on that latest news for those interested.
And while we are basking in the fact that dogs and cats cannot get nor transmit H1N1 that we know of, out comes H3N8 to burst our bubble. The new strain of canine influenza (documented in 2004) is documented in 30 states now. That flu is though to have originated from equine influenza. Good gravy. Makes going to the zoo a lot less appealing, doesn’t it? I spent years studying this stuff and I still find it confounding and nerve-wracking at times. Conspiracy theories abound, though truthfully viruses are sneaky enough on their own that I can’t fathom any people being clever enough to direct their evolution and mutation.
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and go into specifics about the H3N8 virus; instead, for those who are interested I’ll point you in the direction of those much more knowledgeable than I on the topic:
10 Things to Know about H3N8 (from the New York Times)
H3N8 Update (from the American Veterinary Medical Association. The bottom of this article has even more links.)
Overall point: Dogs have been getting upper respiratory infections for eons and eons, so the syndrome is nothing new. It’s simply a new causative agent. (kind of like, er, H1N1.)
I have the unusual dichotomy of being in a mildly panicked mode about my own kid, bundling her off to the pediatrician tomorrow just to be sure, while at the same time being the same reassuring medical care provider to worried pet parents. The take-home message is the same in both cases, which I’m repeating for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s as I’m sure to be hearing tomorrow:
Even if it is influenza, the vast majority of cases result in only minor illness.
Knowing who is going to be in the unlucky 1-5% is a power I do not possess.
When in doubt, go to the doc. That is what they are there for, to hand you tissues while you sniff and imagine the worst and remind you that your (fur)kid appears to be doing just fine. Pass the disinfectant, please.