Bird flu spreads to cats and dogs as infections jump to mammals in 31 states: Here’s what to know - Hindustan Times
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Bird flu spreads to cats and dogs as infections jump to mammals in 31 states: Here’s what to know

ByAditi Srivastava
Jun 23, 2024 12:35 PM IST

Zoonotic transmission of avian influenza in the U.S. prompts worry as virus reaches cats and dogs in multiple states.

A highly infectious type of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has shown concerning zoonotic transmission in recent weeks. The outbreak, which has reportedly affected a few human lives and has spread to four humans so far, is rapidly expanding in the U.S. Previously limited to wild birds and domestic poultry, the virus has been detected in cats across 31 states, with isolated cases identified in dogs. This raises concerns for both animal health and potential human exposure, particularly among pet owners. Here’s everything you need to know.

Bird flu spreads to cats and dogs as infections jump to mammals in 31 states: Here’s what to know(Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash)
Bird flu spreads to cats and dogs as infections jump to mammals in 31 states: Here’s what to know(Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash)

Bird flu spreads across 31 states in the US

According to USA Today, the infection has spread from cows to mice, foxes, mountain lions, and even alpacas in 12 states so far. Despite initial expert assurances that the virus would not affect dairy products, it has rapidly spread among dairy cows nationwide, affecting over 90 herds in the past few months. The H5N1 virus has also caused collateral harm in a variety of other species, including poultry, dairy, and three farm workers who were exposed to the disease. Nonetheless, the real worry appears to be escalating as sporadic instances of the infection have been found in cats and dogs.

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Bird flu detected in cats and dogs in US

The outlet claims that almost 21 domestic cats in 9 US states have contracted the disease since March 1. According to the report, while the infections were spreading at dairy farms, a few sick and dead cats showed symptoms of illness, which went unnoticed. Researchers have long been aware that felines are at risk of contracting avian influenza. "Domestic cats are actually highly susceptible to avian influenza, especially H5N1," said Kristen Coleman, a researcher at the University of Maryland as per the NY Times.

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Feral, barn, and pet cats are among those who have tested positive for bird flu. There are a few reports of dogs as well, although the number is lower, the concern looms. H5N1, a new version of bird flu that emerged back in 2020, has rapidly spread globally. Scientists believe that while cases in cats and dogs remain rare, "it results in very severe illness and oftentimes death," which is why it should be taken seriously.

Could Bird flu spread from pet cats to human

There is a slight risk of humans falling ill if their pets are infected, though the likelihood is very low according to the CDC. Professionals believe that the H5N1 virus could be transmitted through a cat's spit, poop, or other body fluids. A lot of cats with the virus show signs of fever, reduced hunger, and lung problems like runny nose, trouble breathing, and pneumonia. They might also have neurological signs like rigidity, shaking, and seizures often.

"We do not fully understand whether or not they are capable of transmitting," Dr. Johnson said, addressing whether cats can transmit the disease to humans. "There is currently no evidence that cats have been contributing to the spread of the virus on dairy farms," she added.

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