On December 15, the Health Department and the Animal Care Centers of New York City announced that a rare strain of bird flu was found in 45 cats in one Manhattan shelter.
According to a press release, "This is the first time this virus [influenza A virus, known as low pathogenic avian influenza H7N2] has been detected and transmitted among domestic cats. It is unknown how the cats contracted the virus. So far this virus causes mild illness in cats and is thought to pose a low risk to humans."
It is unknown how the infected cats contracted the virus, which only has two documented cases in the United States, the last of which was from an unknown source back in 2003.
The NYC Department of Health tells petMD that the infected cats, who have shown mild symptoms, are not being medicated because there are none currently approved for use with this infection. (As reported in the release, "One infected cat, who had underlying health problems and advanced age, died" and a representative for the Department of Health assures the cat was "humanely euthanized.")
As the the Department of Health and the ACC looks to find a quarantine facility for the infected cats, they are also "advising persons who adopted Manhattan shelter cats during this period to call the Department at 866-692-3641 for care instructions, including keeping their cat separated from other cats or animals, if their cat is showing signs of persistent cough, lip smacking, runny nose, and fever."
Other signs pet parents should look out for is fever with a sore throat, fever with a cough, or red, inflamed eyes. The Department of Health has also "distribute[d] instructions to all new and recent cat adopters to monitor their cats, which includes guidance on checking animals for upper respiratory illness."
While no humans have yet been infected, nor have 20 dogs at the shelter who have been tested, the virus, which is being spread from cat to cat can affect people, as well as animals. "Testing of other animals, including rabbits and guinea pigs, is ongoing," according to the press release. "There have been no reported cases of this virus among cats outside of the ACC shelter system."
The influenza is unlikely to impact cats from other shelters, but "owners whose animals show signs of influenza should contact their veterinarian for care instructions and hand washing precautions should be taken to prevent spread of the virus on hands and clothing."
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