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K-State Today

October 25, 2017



Veterinary faculty to provide public health information at Okt-FLU-ber Fest

By Kate KuKanich, Ellyn Mulcahy, Susan Nelson, Neala Boyer, Jennifer Green

Members from Kansas State University's Master of Public Health program and the College of Veterinary Medicine will join the Riley County Health Department on Thursday, Oct. 26, for Okt-FLU-ber Fest.

These veterinary and public health experts will answer questions about influenza in pets and what people can do to keep all family members — people and pets — safe from various strains of influenza.

Okt-FLU-ber Fest will include a vaccine clinic for kids and adults in a fun, family atmosphere. The clinic is from 1:30-7 p.m. at 2101 Claflin Road, Manhattan.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine each year," said Jennifer Green, director of the Riley County Health Department. "This year we are offering extended hours and Fort Riley Public Health will be offering vaccines for military families. We will also have a limited supply of vaccines for uninsured adults. We're encouraging families across the community to come enjoy food, games, and face painting."

"This is an important collaborative event to educate and inform our community about influenza and the One Health relationship between animals and humans," said Ellyn Mulcahy, director of the Master of Public Health program. She said Master of Public Health students will be assisting at the event.

According to Kate KuKanich, associate professor of internal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine's clinical sciences department, canine influenza most commonly causes coughing, sneezing and runny nose, similar to a person with a respiratory virus.

"There are many other infectious causes of these same signs in dogs," KuKanich said. "While some dogs show no signs of illness with canine influenza when infected and shedding, other dogs may show more severe signs such as fever or even pneumonia."

KuKanich said there are two strains of canine influenza: H3N8 and H3N2.

"Both are very contagious and spread through respiratory secretions especially when a dog coughs or sneezes," she said. "Fortunately, we have not yet diagnosed a single case of canine influenza H3N8 or H3N2 at the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center."

Veterinarians are routinely on alert for influenza and can submit a nasal swab from any suspected case to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing by PCR and sequencing. Inquiries should be directed to clientcare@vet.k-state.edu or by phone at 785-532-5650 or 866-512-5650.

Answers to common questions about influenza in pets

What can dog owners do?

KuKanich suggested discussing risk factors with your veterinarian to decide if vaccination is recommended. "Not all dogs should be vaccinated," she said. "Dogs who stay in Kansas and have little contact with other dogs are considered to be at very low risk at this time." Susan Nelson, clinical professor, and Neala Boyer, clinical assistant professor with the Veterinary Health Center's Pet Health Service, suggest that dogs who travel, go to dog shows or spend time at boarding facilities, doggie daycare or dog parks may be at increased risk and are candidates for vaccination.

Is there risk for people to acquire canine influenza?

No, neither H3N8 nor H3N2 has been shown to be transmissible to a person or to cause illness in people, although H3N2 has been transmitted to cats causing respiratory illness.

Can influenza spread from people to pets in our households?

Yes, the human influenza strain H1N1 has been confirmed in pet dogs, cats and ferrets, and these pets were believed to acquire their influenza from sick family members within their homes. "It is a good idea to stay home when you are sick with the flu to minimize spread of disease to your friends and colleagues, and our pets can be wonderful companions when we are ill," KuKanich said. "Coughing and sneezing in your elbow or into a tissue and washing hands frequently are great ways to keep other people and pets around you healthy. If your pet does show signs of illness, call your veterinarian for advice and let them know about any illness in yourself or other family members."

KuKanich said One Health is the industry term referring to the collaborative efforts of a community to keep people, animals and the environment healthy.

"By working as a team with our county health departments, physicians and veterinarians, we can keep everyone safe from the flu and other infections we may come across," she said.

Further questions can be addressed to KuKanich at kstenske@k-state.edu.

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