China reports two dogs with H1N1

The Chinese government reported last week that two dogs had tested positive for the H1N1 virus. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said in a news alert that it had learned of the findings, and was investigating the validity of the reports.

“We have not been able to confirm the findings of H1N1 in dogs in China,” AVMA spokesman Michael San Filippo said. “We’ve reached out to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the China Agricultural University in Beijing, which reported that two dogs had tested positive, but have not heard anything back from them.”

The AVMA says the reports are no cause for panic, but veterinarians and pet owners should remain vigilant to flu-like symptoms in pets. The AVMA has an H1N1 resource and information page on its website, that will be updated as information becomes available.

The following are excerpts from an interview with a Ministry of Agriculture official regarding the dogs’ cases, translated from the official website of the Chinese government by NEWStat reporter Ben Williams.

China’s first reported case of Influenza A H1N1 virus in dogs

Via Xinhua News Agency in Beijing
Reporter (Dong Jun): Please describe the situation in detail, and tell us what steps the Ministry of Agriculture is taking.

Official: The Ministry of Agriculture received the report from the Agricultural University on Nov. 25. At the request of the Ministry, the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine tested samples from the noses and throats of 52 sick dogs, and two samples tested positive for Influenza A H1N1. Gene sequencing analysis showed 99 percent homology with the virus currently being transmitted among humans, which makes it the same virus. This is the first case of a dog contracting the Influenza A H1N1 virus, and it is only the second case of this virus being discovered in animals, after the recent discovery of the virus in live pigs at a slaughterhouse in Heilongjiang Province.

There is close contact between humans and their pets in large and mid-sized cities in China. In order to effectively prevent the spread of the virus between people and animals, and to protect the health and safety of humans and animals, the Ministry of Agriculture requests that everyone strengthen their efforts at disease prevention.

Risk of transmission from animals to humans cannot be ruled out

Reporter: Could the Influenza A H1N1 virus mutate within the bodies of dogs, and is there a risk that they could spread it to other dogs or humans?

Official: First, experts from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) say that while it is normal for animals to contract H1N1, there is no evidence to show that animals have played a role in spreading the virus among humans. Due to the specific properties of this virus, if it is heated to 70 degrees Celsius it will be killed.

Second, OIE and World Health Organization (WHO) surveillance has shown that at this time the H!N1 virus has not mutated yet. That includes the H1N1 virus found by China in the live pigs and in the dogs.

Third, judging from the specific properties and transmission patterns of H1N1, although the virus has not mutated yet, we cannot rule out the risk that the virus could genetically reorganize and mutate within the bodies of animals, or that animals could transmit the virus to other animals, or even that animals could transmit the virus back to humans.

According to statistics, as of Nov. 26, 15 countries or regions (Canada, Argentina, America, Chile, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, England, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, China and Indonesia) have discovered the H1N1 virus in animals, including pigs, turkeys, ferrets, cats and dogs.

If your pet has flu-like symptoms immediately take it to a veterinary hospital

Reporter: Does China currently have a vaccine and diagnostic reagent for H1N1 in pets? What suggestions do you have to guard against the spread of H1N1 among pets?

Official: Targeting the gene sequence of the Influenza A H1N1 virus, the China National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory has constructed a vaccine and diagnostic reagent for the animal H1N1 influenza subtype. The next step will be that the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to strengthen its scientific research efforts, work on technology, strengthen its work on comparative analysis of Influenza A H1N1, follow the virus mutation situation, analyze the evolutionary trends, and stay prepared.

In order to guard pets against H1N1 infection, and to prevent the spread of the virus from humans to pets, we recommend the following:

First, strengthen disease prevention management while feeding your pets. Wash and disinfect your pet’s feeding environment daily to eliminate hidden threats. Second, reduce or avoid contact between your pets and H1N1 flu sufferers. If the pet owner becomes ill, he or she should immediately go to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Third, if your dog or cat starts coughing or has other flu-like symptoms, immediately take the pet to a veterinary hospital with the appropriate conditions for diagnosis and treatment, and promptly report it. Fourth, while working to prevent the spread of H1N1, we should strengthen efforts to take defensive measures against rabies, parvovirus, and other zoonotic, bacterial, and parasitic diseases.