Canine Influenza Outbreak Spotlights Broad Veterinary Expertise

May 26, 2015 / Message from the Dean

This message appeared in the June-July 2015 issue of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Bulletin.

Well done, Chicago area veterinarians.

The eruption of a new strain of canine influenza in your community presented a tremendous challenge, and your collective response admirably illustrated the many facets of our profession.

Beginning with alerting the profession to an upsurge in respiratory illness and continuing through communicating scientifically sound messages to the public, implementing quarantines and infectious disease control measures in your clinics, advising dog-related organizations on ways to limit the spread of the disease, and dedicating many extra hours to the demand for palliative care, the veterinary community and the CVMA seized the opportunity to showcase veterinary science.

Chicago may be especially vulnerable to the introduction of foreign animal diseases. Twelve million international travellers passed through O’Hare in 2014. International air traffic is up overall in the United States, and South Korea and China—where the H3N2 strain originated—are among the top 10 countries of origin or destination.

As people increasingly roam the globe, so too do their pathogens. Veterinarians, whether their primary focus is companion animals or pigs, must remain vigilant.

Your College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana is here to support you in that role. Virologists in our Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory were able to isolate RNA from and sequence the genome of the new flu virus. Influenza A expert Dr. Elizabeth Driskell on our faculty reached out to Chicago veterinarians for samples of this new virus as she seeks to develop an in-clinic culture for CIV that would greatly reduce the current time for diagnosis.

As always, our lab puts an emphasis on not only accurate results but also consultations to provide context and support diagnoses.

At the college’s May graduation ceremony, I led our new graduates in reciting the Veterinarian’s Oath. It is fitting to recall those words in light of the profession’s response to this outbreak:

I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

For your ongoing role in benefiting society and advancing knowledge, I salute you.

—Dean Peter Constable