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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Chicken flu can infect cats. What does that imply for his or her individuals?


Cats are getting — and dying of — chook flu. That’s sparking worries in regards to the danger that the continuing outbreak of extremely pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza poses for these feline furballs and their house owners.

This outbreak has been sickening and killing wild birds and poultry in the USA since 2021 (SN: 5/16/24). H5N1 has additionally jumped right into a extensive number of mammals, together with livestock equivalent to goats, dairy cattle and, most lately, 4 alpacas in Idaho (SN: 3/6/23; SN: 4/3/24).

When chook flu viruses infect mammals, the viruses can get random mutations that assist them replicate higher in mammalian cells. That raises the likelihood that the avian influenza might adapt to unfold simply in individuals.

There’s no signal that the virus has developed the kind of modifications wanted to transmit simply from person-to-person but, the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention reported Might 24. Most individuals who’ve gotten contaminated thus far have been these with shut contact with poultry or cattle.

However having chook flu present up in home cats may give the virus a extra intimate route for infecting individuals. In spite of everything, individuals don’t normally cuddle chickens and cows the best way they do kitties.

Right here’s what’s and isn’t identified about H5N1 chook flu in cats and different widespread pets.

How do cats get chook flu?

Outside cats might get contaminated after catching wild birds, says Meghan Davis, a veterinarian and environmental epidemiologist on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg College of Public Well being. “Whether or not they eat them or not, that might be adequate contact.”

The weight loss program individuals feed their pets might additionally put cats in danger. “Uncooked meat diets, and particularly uncooked poultry diets, have been related to a few of these circumstances,” she says.

The U.S. Division of Agriculture has discovered viral particles in muscle and different tissue from a dairy cow that was being culled, the company mentioned Might 24. Not one of the meat entered the meals provide, however the incident highlights that uncooked beef may comprise the virus. (For anybody anxious about their summer time cookout, cooking burgers spiked with H5N1 to 145° Fahrenheit (medium) or greater was sufficient to inactivate the virus, the company says.)

Water, footwear or tools contaminated with chook droppings additionally could be potential sources of an infection, based on the World Group for Animal Well being.

And now, uncooked milk — milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill micro organism and viruses — has develop into an avenue for an infection after H5N1 confirmed up in dairy cattle. Uncooked milk, a few of which is labeled for pet use solely, might be a manner that indoor cats that don’t have contact with wild birds or poultry might get contaminated, Davis says.

Some proof means that cats may have the ability to go the an infection to one another, she says.

Can cats die of chook flu?

Sure. Demise charges from H5N1 infections in cats look like excessive.

This yr alone, greater than 16 cats in the USA are identified to have contracted H5N1 chook flu, most of them on dairy farms, based on the World Group for Animal Well being. A minimum of 4 have died. In 2022 and 2023, at the very least 13 cats bought chook flu and about half died. Some had been cats on poultry farms or that had contact with yard hen flocks that had been contaminated with the virus, however some had been home cats that by some means bought sick.

The virus has additionally killed at the very least 22 mountain lions and sickened at the very least 10 bobcats, killing at the very least seven of them. A captive leopard in New York and a captive tiger in Nebraska additionally died of chook flu.

The numbers of infections probably is greater. For example, about half of two dozen cats that had been fed uncooked milk from contaminated cattle on one Texas farm earlier this yr died, researchers report within the July 2024 Rising Infectious Ailments. These cats weren’t included within the World Group for Animal Well being report.

The image shows a grid of four squares, each a pinkish tissue sample from a different organ of a cat that was infected with bird flu. Small arrows point out where the virus damaged tissue in the brain (upper left), lungs (upper right), eye (lower right) and heart (lower left). Insets in each image show the virus, which appears dark brown, in each kind of tissue.
Researchers examined cats that died of H5N1 avian influenza after ingesting uncooked milk from contaminated cows on a Texas dairy farm. The virus (darkish brown in insets) had unfold by means of the cats’ our bodies, together with the lungs (higher proper), eye (decrease proper), coronary heart (decrease left) and mind (higher left). The arrows level to numerous lesions or proof of illness within the tissues. As soon as the illness will get to cats’ brains, they usually die.E.R. Burrough et al./Rising Infectious Ailments 2024

Signs earlier than the cats’ deaths included stiff physique actions, wobbliness, circling, runny noses and blindness. Researchers examined two of the lifeless cats and located proof that the virus had contaminated their complete our bodies. However it might have been mind an infection that killed the cats. “Sadly, it’s not nice information if we get to that time,” Davis says.

Can individuals get chook flu from cats?

It’s potential, however the danger might be low. In 2016, after working with cats sickened with a special kind of chook flu, a veterinarian in New York Metropolis turned ailing, researchers reported in Medical Infectious Ailments in 2017.

It’s uncommon however potential for individuals to catch chook flu from pets, livestock or wild animals, the CDC says. A dairy farm employee in Texas and one in Michigan each bought gentle eye infections this yr after contact with contaminated dairy cows (SN: 5/16/24). Within the Michigan case, the employee bought splashed within the face with uncooked milk containing the virus.

On Might 30, the CDC introduced that one other dairy farm employee in Michigan bought sick after contact with contaminated cows and developed respiratory signs, together with a cough and watery eyes. That case was from a special farm the place the individual with the attention an infection labored. The coughing dairy employee is isolating at residence and their household and coworkers haven’t developed signs, the company mentioned.

Farm employees could also be youthful and more healthy than the common individual, Davis says. Much less clear is whether or not actually vulnerable individuals, equivalent to older individuals or ones with weakened immune methods, who stay with cats may need the next danger of getting contaminated, she says.

The precise odds of catching chook flu from animals hasn’t but been established, even for employees uncovered to giant numbers of sick cattle or poultry. However public well being businesses stress that the danger of getting chook flu is low for individuals who aren’t uncovered to contaminated birds and their droppings or to contaminated animals.

Can canine or different pets get chook flu?

Sure. Canines are in all probability vulnerable to getting chook flu, Davis says. Their canine cousins crimson foxes have incessantly been victims of H5N1.

In a single examine of canine, 4 of 194 searching canine that had retrieved waterfowl developed antibodies towards H5N1 chook flu, researchers report within the June 2024 Rising Infectious Ailments. That means that canine can get contaminated with chook flu. Not one of the canine bought sick and so they didn’t go the virus to different canine of their households, the workforce discovered.

Different small mammal pets, particularly ferrets or mink, are additionally weak.

How can pet house owners preserve their cats protected?

Maintain cats inside away from birds, Davis advises. For cats that go outdoors, restrict their publicity to chook feces, she says. “Maintain the chook feeders out of the catio.”

A gray tiger domestic cat stalks white bird on a window ledge with only a closed window keeping the cat inside and preventing the cat from getting closer to its prey.
Preserving cats inside can cut back the probabilities of them getting chook flu from wild birds, together with pigeons and sparrows that will carry the virus.Santiaga/istock/getty pictures plus

The World Group for Animal Well being advises cleansing footwear after strolling in locations the place there are chook droppings, disinfecting surfaces the place footwear are saved and retaining footwear away from cats.

Don’t feed cats meals, particularly uncooked poultry and milk, that may comprise stay chook flu virus, Davis says. “The underside line will not be feeding uncooked milk merchandise to pets is as vital as not consuming them yourselves.”

There are not any chook flu vaccines accessible for cats proper now.

What ought to I do if my cat brings residence a lifeless chook?

Don’t contact the chook when you will help it. If you must transfer the chook, placed on a masks and gloves and goggles, Davis says. In the event you don’t have protecting tools a stick and a field will do. Wash your arms after dealing with the chook.

Monitor the cat and notify your vet if signs seem. The incubation interval in cats tends to be brief, with signs showing two to a few days after an infection.

In the event you discover giant numbers of lifeless birds or different animals, Davis advises notifying animal management authorities. “Many states may have both a state wildlife veterinarian or different reporting hotlines for lifeless wild animals,” she says. These businesses can do testing to see if H5N1 is current and may get rid of the lifeless birds or animals.


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