Pet Cat Diagnosed with Swine Flu: What Could This Mean?
A pet cat in Iowa, in the United States was diagnosed with swine flu, the H1N1 virus, which it apparently caught from one of the people living in the house who was diagnosed with the flu as well.
The 13-year-old cat and its owner have now recovered and does not appear to have infected anyone or anything else, but what could this mean in terms of mutation of the virus? A pet ferret has been previously diagnosed with the virus as well.
"Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill," Iowa Department of Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey said in a statement.
"This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past." Both the cat and its owners have recovered from their illnesses.
According to the USDA there have been a few cases of the flu in pigs and one ferret, but this is the first cat.
The swine flu can apparently infect birds, but it is not known if it can pass the H1N1 virus on to humans.
Before the case of the ferret and now the cat, scientists thought that pets could not catch the H1N1 virus, but now these two cases have changed their minds. Ferrets are susceptible to infection with influenze viruses, but a cat, as it has close contact with its owners, can develop symptons as well. However, there is still no evidence that a pet can pass it on to humans.
As always, it's important to wash your hands frequently before and after contact with pets and animals.
The H1N1 virus spreads much easily from person to person rather than humans to animals and vice versa.
This could be an indication however, of rapid virus mutation, which could spell danger for the virus and the vaccine down the road, but at this point there is no need to panic.