It’s amazing how one little email comment can make a mess of my week.

Here’s the story: I sent an email to a colleague that works for an agency in Ontario. At the bottom of the email, I gave an FYI about an Ontario dog that was found to have antibodies against canine flu, but that wasn’t sick. At the time, I didn’t realize that my colleague was no longer at the aforementioned agency.

  • Astoundingly, instead of cancelling my colleague’s email account, the agency had left the account active – and the CEO of the agency reads her emails!
  • In this case, not only does the CEO read the email, she forwards it to other people in the agency.
  • Not only do the others read it, they create a release that they send out to associates of their agency throughout the province and some other groups… without contacting me to get details, understand the full story or get permission to use the information I provided. Not exactly a good communications strategy.

In an amazingly short period of time, I was contacted by two provincial Ministries about Ontario’s canine flu status, since incomplete information was forwarded to them, and veterinary clinics in the province are now asking questions about our "canine flu case" or "canine flu outbreak."

So, to set the record straight (and decrease the number of phone calls I’m getting today):

  • We found a dog that had antibodies against canine influenza as part of an outbreak investigation. The outbreak was not caused by canine flu.
  • The dog had the same antibody level on two blood samples taken two weeks apart. This is not consistent with disease caused by flu. Rather, it indicates that the dog has been exposed to the virus.
  • The fact that the dog has been exposed to the virus is noteworthy. The only other seropositive (i.e. antibody positive) dog that we have seen in Ontario was a greyhound from Florida, and we assumed it was infected in Florida. That was a few years ago, and we haven’t seen anything since. Initial information indicates that this dog has not left the province, but I’m working to confirm that before I can be confident that this is evidence that canine flu is present in Ontario.

This is an important topic because if/when canine flu hits a region, it certainly has the potential to cause big outbreaks. The outbreak at a Texas racing facility that I wrote about yesterday is a good example of the bad things that can happen when flu hits a susceptible population. Knowing if the virus is in the area is important for things like vaccination programs and making recommendations for management of respiratory disease cases in veterinary clinics and in the community.

We currently have no evidence of canine flu activity in Ontario, but we are actively looking because we assume that it will make it here sometime, if it’s not here now. Identifying it early and communicating that properly are critical control measures for canine flu and other emerging infectious diseases, but there’s nothing to worry about at the moment.