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A rare outbreak of canine flu in the Chicago area has sickened more than 1,000 dogs, including five who died, in the past month, according to veterinarians in the region.

The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control is warning dog owners to avoid dog parks, group training activities and dog daycare and boarding centers.

The outbreak of canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) could last several weeks before it subsides, county officials said in a press release.

CIRD is unrelated to kennel cough in that the symptoms are more severe and the consequences more dire.

Dogs afflicted with the canine flu suffer a persistent and lingering cough and exhibit lethargic behavior, a poor appetite and fever. Dog owners who spot these symptoms should take their pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible, officials said.

The canine flu can be treated with a vaccine administered by a veterinarian.

Puppies under the age of one year and dogs older than seven years have been afflicted with the most severe forms of the flu, county veterinarians say.

Canine flu is highly contagious for dogs, but not for people or other household pets. However, the virus can be transmitted to a healthy dog by a person who has touched a sickened dog. The virus also can live on fabric and hard surfaces.

“Dogs can be contagious even if they are not showing any of the CIRD symptoms,” said Dr. Donna Alexander, administrator of the county’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control.

The outbreak prompted city park officials to post warning signs at dog parks and to cancel the annual doggy Easter egg hunt last weekend.
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