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Animals

As humans crowd U.S. hospitals, veterinarians warn of canine influenza

KVUE

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AUSTIN - Hospitals across the country are seeing an uptick in patients due to influenza.

“The number of visits in healthcare systems, physicians’ offices, hospitals and urgent care centers over the past week has really exploded,” said Ken Mitchell, M.D.

The Chief Medical Officer at St. David’s Healthcare said it is the worst flu season in four years, in terms of how many people it’s hit.

“And it’s not only affecting Austin,” said Dr. Mitchell. “But Texas is one of the hardest hit states. It’s really a nationwide epidemic.”

Dr. Mitchell said the cold weather and holidays are partially to blame.

“All of the cold that we experienced nationwide over the holidays and into January, it really exploded in the past week,” said Dr. Mitchell.

He reminded people to be mindful of ERs and to only go if they are experiencing severe symptoms, like high fever or shortness of breath.

He encouraged people with mild or moderate systems to go to their primary care or an urgent care.

Dr. Mitchell also said it is not too late to get a flu shot.

Meanwhile, veterinarians are warning that dogs are also susceptible to getting sick, though they added that they haven't seen any cases in the Austin-area yet.

"But I fully expect we’ll have some before the year is out," said Hindatu Mohammed, veterinarian and owner of Allendale Veterinary Clinic.

She explained the symptoms are similar to what humans face, like cough, mild fever or lethargy.

However, Mohammed said, if the dog has a more severe case the symptoms will mimic pneumonia.

"I think your index for suspicion for influenza or and kind of contagious respiratory disease is going to be higher if your dog goes to boarding facilities, or goes to doggy day care, or is just in an environment where they're around lots of dogs," Mohammed explained. "Because, just like people, your pet is going to contract it from exposure to an infected pet."

She encouraged dog owners to get their pets vaccinated before the sickness hits.

“You can actually get your dog vaccinated for both strains at the same time. It’s going to be a two-part series if they’ve never had the vaccine before," she said. "That’s not going to necessarily prevent your pet from getting influenza, but hopefully prevent them from getting that severe disease.”

© 2018 KVUE-TV


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