USDA approves canine flu virus vaccine

Published on July 18, 2009
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The Department of Agriculture announced in June that it had issued a conditional license for the first canine influenza virus vaccine.

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health developed the vaccine, which is made from killed virus and is intended to aid in controlling disease associated with infection with canine influenza virus type A, subtype H3N8.

Canine influenza was first identified in U.S. dogs in 2004 after an outbreak of respiratory disease in racing Greyhounds in Florida. Since then, it has continued to spread and has been detected in dogs in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Recognizing the need for treatment options, the AVMA in 2006 adopted a policy stating the Association "believes there is urgent need for an effective canine influenza virus vaccine to improve the health and welfare of animals and reduce the financial impacts of canine influenza."

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service grants conditional licenses in the event of an emergency situation, limited market, or other special circumstance. In this case, the special circumstance was the emergence of a new virus for which there was no existing licensed veterinary vaccine.

Most dogs have no immunity to the influenza virus because it is a novel pathogen. Therefore, infection can spread quickly through animal shelters, adoption groups, pet stores, boarding kennels, veterinary clinics, and any other location where dogs congregate.

"We developed the vaccine in response to the growing problem of the disease," said Dr. Christopher Pappas Jr., director of Companion Animal Technical Services at Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.

No evidence exists of transmission of the virus from dogs to people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies indicate that the vaccine can reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions as well as the duration of coughing and viral shedding, according to APHIS, which issued the conditional license through its Center for Veterinary Biologics.

The product is administered by injection and is recommended for use in healthy dogs that are six weeks of age or older.

Under the conditional license, the vaccine may be distributed as authorized in each state and can be used only by or under the supervision of veterinarians, APHIS explained. During the one-year conditional license period, the CVB will continue to monitor the product's performance and will evaluate the company's progress toward full licensure.