With the concern about the current canine flu hitting epidemic levels, owners may have found some comfort in the news that this particular strain of flu is unable to affect humans. Although veterinarians still advise on keeping a clean environment for pets, what about the potential for other viral candidates to make the jump from pet to owner and vice versa?

A study from the American Society for Microbiology says there’s a chance dogs and humans can give each other the stomach bug. In the latest issue of the society’s publication, “Journal of Clinical Microbiology,” Dr. Sarah Caddy, a veterinarian and Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College, London, calls for more testing of possible cross-contamination between pet and pet owner.

As a vet, Caddy had come across several stories from dog owners that both they and their dogs had come down with the stomach flu, formally known as norovirus. Noting little in the way of research in the area, she decided to tackle the topic. She found some dogs in the study exhibited antibodies to norovirus.

The Centers for Disease Control explains the common virus is very contagious. A person may contract norovirus from another person, infected food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The painful viral strain causes the stomach, intestines or both to become inflamed and produces symptoms ranging from nausea to vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus is especially dangerous to children and seniors. The virus strikes as many as 21 million Americans (or about 6 percent of the population) annually, and can lead to 71,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.

Dog owners needn’t worry too much, however. It is unknown whether dogs can contract the virus from their owners alone as opposed to other forms of contamination, like food. Then the correlation of transferring the Norovirus from pet to person has yet to be established. Plus, in the largest norovirus incidents, such as in isolated communities, hospitals or aboard cruise ships, have very little interaction with canine populations to induce a possible outbreak among four-legged friends.

Should either owner or pet fall ill to gastroenteritis, Caddy suggests using “sensible hygiene precautions.”