The avian flu, also known as the bird flu or the H5N1 virus, has become an increasingly prevalent topic in the news. The question pet owners ask is Can their dog or cat become infected with the bird flu.
The bird flu most recently made news April 2015 when over 5 million laying hens in Iowa had to be destroyed after tests confirmed an outbreak of avian influenza.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, a strain of the influenza virus, also known as H5N1, usually infects poultry or wild birds and has spread to more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The bird flu can infect other animal species including cats.
The H5N1 virus does not usually infect humans but according to the CDC, humans have been infected from close contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. H5N1 is responsible for killing 109 people in nine countries, and scientists are concerned about the possibility of any mutation that would allow the virus to spread more easily to humans.
Do Cats Get the Bird Flu?
Cats are known to be able to become infected with the H5N1. It has been reported that cats that have ingested infected raw poultry have been susceptible to the virus and are able to spread the virus to other cats. There is no evidence that cats can transmit the virus to humans.
Do Dogs Get the Bird Flu?
According to the CDC, dogs have not been shown to become infected with the bird flu, however they are monitoring this closely since other carnivore species can be infected. The CDC stated that An unpublished study carried out in 2005 by the National Institute of Animal Health in Bangkok indicated that dogs could be infected with the virus, but no associated disease was detected.
For more information on Bird Flu in Dogs and Cats:
Center for Disease Control – http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/qa.htm
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines, www.ecdc.eu.int
Information on H5N1 in Cats (from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), visit http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/en/health/diseases-cards/avian_cats.html
Frequently asked questions on Avian influenza, visit http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/avian_faq.asp