By VICTORIA HEUER
November 20, 2009
The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) disclosed preliminary findings this week that a cat had died due to complications of the H1N1 Flu, also commonly known as the swine flu. The 10-year-old male cat had been living in a home with three other cats, which had also shown varying degrees of flu-like symptoms, but which tested negative for the H1N1 strain. This is the first reported case of a domestic cat dying as a result of the swine flu infection.
This is the third reported case of a cat becoming infected with the swine flu virus. The first, a 13-year-old cat in Iowa, was confirmed on November 2. The second confirmed case was reported in Park City, Utah on November 13. In both cases the flu was acquired from the cats' owners, and in both cases the cats have recovered under veterinary care.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that infections in pets are “isolated events and pose no risks to human health,” and the OVMA has cautioned pet owners not to panic, as the number of infected cats is minuscule in comparison to the number of cats kept as pets in the U.S. (estimated at over 88 million).
While transmission of H1N1 from cat to human has not yet been affirmed by a documented case, it is assumed that the cross-over of the virus from human to cat will eventually take the same route.
The first confirmed case of H1N1 in a pet ferret was made public on October 9 in Oregon, and since then three other cases have been confirmed. To date, there have also been three other confirmed cases of pet ferrets acquiring the H1N1 virus in Oregon, and one case in Nebraska in which a pet ferret died after becoming infected through its owner.
There are no vaccines currently available for companion animals. The Center for Disease Control is advising owners to take the same precautions with their pets as they would with family members. Minimize contact with pets until 24 hours after the fever has passed, wash hands frequently, and cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues. Because the virus can remain active even after the illness has passed, Oregon State's Public Health Veterinarian, Emilio DeBess, DVM, advises taking precautionary measures with pets for a week after the virus has passed.
Cat and ferret owners who have been ill with flu should observe their pets for any symptoms of flu-like illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, sneezing, coughing, fever, discharge from eyes and/or nose and changes in breathing.
For more information about the 2009 H1N1 Flu, see the American Veterinary Medical Association's Web site.