Thursday, December 3, 2009


There was a report a couple of days ago about two or three dogs testing positive for the swine flu virus in China. I don't put too much stock in reports out of China (after all, they're the country who gave us melamine in our dog food), but it's certainly plausible. The article even pointed out that the dogs probably contracted the virus from their human caretakers, and that the virus appeared able to spread between dogs.
There's an odd thing about zoonoses -- those diseases that can be shared between humans and other animals (and pronounced without any "zoo" in case you care). You only ever seem to hear the news talking about diseases being passed from other animals to humans. . .sometimes with dire consequences for those other animals. I mean, Washington state gets absolutely hysterical about bird flu every year, waiting with bated breath for the first confirmed case to appear. Even though, much like swine flu, this is NOT a disastrous disease for humans by any stretch of the imagination. Was pretty bad news for horses until they developed a vaccine, but pretty much just your run-of-the-mill case of the flu for everyone else.
Now we have swine flu and yes, it was impressive how quickly it spread around the globe. But that shouldn't have been surprising to anyone, given how many people travel via air every day. Calling it a pandemic may have been correct vocabulary-wise, but it didn't help keep a lid on the anxiety at all. Certainly it should be watched for any sudden increase in virulence, but so far it's killed far fewer people than the regular old annual flu.
And did you know that it's just as common, if not moreso, for our animals to catch diseases from us? The swine flu is far from the first or only instance of dogs being sickened by diseases their humans are carrying. The dogs just don't complain and carry on so much.
The concept of "One Medicine" has been gaining steam amid medical personnel and researchers both in the veterinary and human medicine communities, so maybe we'll see a more balanced outlook someday soon.

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