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Dog flu outbreak sweeping Midwest is 'strain never seen before in US'

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Dog owners have been told to be on alert for a strain of canine flu that has sickened more than 1,000 across the Midwest.

The Associated Press reports that the virus has yet to appear in Minnesota, but that it has been detected in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, having believed to have originated in the Chicago area.

Tests by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Library confirmed the strain as H3N2, AP reports, which is believed to have come from Asia and causes coughs, a runny nose and fever in dogs.

KSTP reports that the strain is highly contagious, has never been seen before in the United States, and has so far killed five dogs.

The TV station says that dogs are contagious for about two weeks and should be kept away from other dogs during that time should they develop the symptoms.

FOX 9 reported last week that Minnesota's veterinarians are keeping a close eye out for the virus entering the state, having inched closer with its spread into Wisconsin.

"We see it every few years where we have an outbreak in a concentrated area. It goes down after a few weeks, and then we don't see it again for a few years. So it's pretty uncommon," BluePearl vet Tracy Julius told the TV station.

Cornell University said that it was initially thought that the H3N8 strain, which first appeared in the U.S. in 2004, was behind the current outbreak.

There is a canine vaccine that is effective against the H3N8 strain, but Cornell does not know whether it will protect dogs against the new virus.

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