Pets can easily contract and spread serious disease like the flu, experts warn.
Virologists found that two dogs in southern China had been carrying mutant strains of the influenza C virus, a disease that commonly infects people — children especially — Scientific American reports .
People have previously spread illnesses like the flu to their dogs, but these new mutations are alerting scientists that diseases like the flu may now be spreading dog to dog. There is concern that these pups could also spread the diseases back to humans as well.
“We have sort of ignored dogs and cats as potential reservoirs or intermediate hosts,” said Cornell University animal virologist Colin Parrish, who runs a research group that studies pups for respiratory illnesses.
Although it is reportedly too soon to tell if influenza C will become an issue in dogs, Parrish suggests that more monitoring “could be done really, really simply” to stay on top of further emerging diseases.
In tandem with this news, NPR recently reported that a new coronavirus, CCoV-HuPn-2018, can be transmitted from dogs to people.
The new strain — already found in Arkansas, Haiti, Malaysia and Thailand — came as an initial surprise to the scientific community. “Dog and cat coronaviruses were not thought to infect people,” Ohio State University virologist Anastasia Vlasova previously told the outlet .
She and other scientists like John Lednicky, an environmental and global health professor at the University of Florida, have been observing otherwise as of late.
“[This coronavirus] probably circulates widely around the world, but no one has paid attention to it,” he told NPR, adding that people who spend time frequently around dogs might have caught the virus — especially those who enjoy close encounters with man’s best friend.
Additionally, and after studying plucked ticks from his cat, Lednicky speculates that another pet spread disease is flying under the radar to humans as well: Heartland virus.
As the rarely reported disease’s symptoms mimic influenza, Lednicky added that “[Heartland] probably been diagnosed as a flu or something else” in many cases.