Human Influenza Virus in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 2, 2008

The influenza virus is quite contagious and can be passed on from humans to ferrets, and vice versa. However, it is far more likely a ferret contracts the human influenza virus from a person, than a human catching the flu from a ferret. And much like humans, the ferret flu is caused by the influenza virus.

Unlike humans, the flu found in ferrets can sometimes prove to be fatal, especially old and young ferrets with weak immunities. The common flu can also complicate the health of ferrets with secondary bacterial infections and pneumonia.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms of this viral infection are the same in ferrets as they are in humans, including: 

  • Clear, thick mucus discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Inflamed eyes (swollen and red)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • High degree of fever

These symptoms can last anywhere from five to fourteen days.


The influenza virus is spread through direct contact with infected carriers (i.e., humans and animals) and from a contaminated environment; it is also airborne.


The veterinarian will diagnose the viral infection and treat with antiviral drugs; treating for secondary complications, such as pneumonia, as needed. The ferret will take about one to two weeks to completely recover from the infection.

It is important you provide plenty of fluids for your ferret and follow other recommended treatments during this time. Lethargic ferrets or those not eating may need electrolytes to prevent a further decline in health.


Quarantine all ferrets suspected of having the influenza virus. And make sure you limit your contact with a ferret when you are sick with the flu. Washing hands frequently will also prevent the spread of the infection through touch and contact.

Featured Image: Breyer

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