Don't Underestimate the Vector Control Threat to Cats--Updated

Several people who read my last post were very concerned and said whomever sent the email hated cats and was dead wrong.

May I remind you that whatever is the truth regarding cats as potential bearers of Avian Flu, the perception of what is truth is often more important.

If Vector Control can convince governments that colonies of ground squirrels pose a serious threat of plague, they certainly can convince them that cats also pose a threat to the public health.

I remember that in 1998, there were people who came to Palisades Park to capture and kill the ground squirrels as the Vector Control propaganda made it seem that the threat of plague was imminent. The misguided morons wanted to help end the threat. Remember, the Great White Shark is almost an endangered species as a result of the movie "Jaws."

Go figure. How did Will Rogers put it, "You can never lose a bet by underestimating the intelligence of Americans."

Posted below is an article from the Center For Infectious Disease Research. It is stuff like this we need to know, understand and rebut. Notice they include dogs as potential carriers:

Experts urge including cats in avian flu precautions

Apr 5, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Growing evidence of H5N1 avian influenza in cats suggests they may play a role in spreading the virus, signaling a need for new precautions, according to a team of medical and veterinary researchers from the Netherlands and Italy.

"Cats could be more than a dead-end host for H5N1 virus," says a commentary article published today in Nature. The authors are Thijs Kuiken, Ron Fouchier, Guus Rimmelzwaan, and Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and Peter Roeder of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

They call for efforts to protect cats from the virus and to test those with possible exposure to it—recommendations that are not included in existing official guidelines for controlling avian flu.

Infections in cats were first observed in Thailand in early 2004, the article notes. In one case, 14 cats in a household near Bangkok died of the infection. In addition, tigers and leopards in two Thai zoos died after eating infected chicken carcasses.

The researchers point to several other observations indicating that cats "are more than collateral damage in avian flu's deadly global spread and may play a greater role in the epidemiology of the virus than previously thought."

Fatal infections in cats have become common in Indonesia, Thailand, and Iraq, where the virus is endemic in poultry, they write. Veterinarians in both Indonesia and Iraq have reported a high incidence of sudden death in cats during poultry outbreaks of avian flu.

In addition, dead or sick cats infected with H5N1 virus turned up in Germany soon after the virus was detected in wild birds there, the researchers note.
They also note that experiments at Erasmus Medical Centre have shown that cats can be infected with the virus by respiratory and gastrointestinal routes and by contact with other infected cats. The infected cats all excreted the virus from the nose, throat, and rectum. It is unknown how long cats can shed the virus or whether they can spread it to humans, poultry, or other species, the article says.

Nonetheless, the researchers write that cats "may provide the virus with an opportunity to adapt to efficient transmission within and among mammalian species, including humans, thereby increasing the risk of a human influenza pandemic."

Therefore, despite the uncertainties, official guidelines for controlling the spread of avian flu should consider the potential role of cats, the authors say.

"In areas where H5N1 virus has been detected in either poultry or wild birds, we recommend taking steps to prevent contact between cats and infected birds or their droppings, and to quarantine and test cats suspected of such contacts, or cats showing clinical signs suggestive of H5N1 influenza," the article states. That means keeping cats indoors where possible.

They also say that other carnivores, such as dogs, foxes, members of the weasel family, and seals, may be susceptible to the H5N1 virus. Therefore they recommend testing for the virus if unusual illness or death rates occur in such animals in areas where avian flu is endemic.

Avian flu can spread among cats

Sep 3, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – House cats can acquire H5N1 avian influenza and pass it on to other cats, Dutch researchers reported this week.
Last February two cats in Thailand reportedly died of H5N1 avian flu, but yesterday's article in the online edition of Science apparently is the first report of cats being experimentally infected with the virus and then spreading it to other cats.

Researchers sprayed H5N1 virus into the throats of three cats, according to the report by Thijs Kuiken and colleagues from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The virus sample had been isolated from a Vietnamese person who died of the disease.

The cats had a fever just 1 day after being exposed to the virus and were excreting virus after 3 days, though in relatively low amounts, the report says. One cat died 6 days after exposure.

Two other cats were put in contact with the first group 2 days after the latter had been infected. In addition, the researchers fed infected chicks to three more cats. All of the additional cats became ill with signs like those of the first group.

Three other cats were exposed to influenza A (H3N2), a common human strain, and stayed healthy.

After the infected cats were euthanized, necropsy showed they had diffuse alveolar damage like that caused by H5N1 infection in humans and monkeys, the report says.

The findings suggest that "the role of cats in the spread of H5N1 virus between poultry farms, and from poultry to humans, needs to be re-assessed," the researchers write. In addition, "Cats may form an opportunity for this avian virus to adapt to mammals, thereby increasing the risk of a human influenza pandemic."

From the Center for Disease Control:

Avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infections have been reported in domestic cats in Germany and Austria, according to the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention. During late February and early March 2006, authorities in Germany announced the detection of H5N1 influenza in three domestic cats that died on the Baltic island of Ruegen, where H5N1 infection has been confirmed in more than 100 wild birds. The deceased cats are thought to have acquired their infections after feeding on H5N1-infected birds. In March 2006, Austrian officials reported the confirmation of H5N1 infection in three sick domestic cats in an animal shelter where the disease had been detected in chickens a month earlier.

To date, there is no evidence that domestic cats have a role in the natural transmission cycle of H5N1 viruses. No cases of avian influenza in humans have been linked to exposure to sick cats, and no outbreaks among populations of domestic cats have been reported. All natural H5N1 infections in domestic cats reported to date appear to have been associated with outbreaks in domestic or wild birds and acquired through ingestion of raw infected meat.

Although the risk of feline infection is very low in Europe, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has issued preliminary recommendations for cat owners living in H5N1-affected areas. These include keeping domestic cats indoors to prevent exposure to potentially infected birds and avoiding contact with semi-domestic and feral cats living outside the home. The recommendations also encourage owners of ill cats, particularly those known to have been exposed to sick or dead birds, to have their cats examined by a veterinarian.

From Cornell Vet School:

Several studies have investigated cats. The first, "Avian Influenza H5N1 in Tigers and Leopards" (Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 10, No. 2), reported on exotic cats becoming infected by eating H5N1-infected chickens obtained from a local slaughterhouse. A second report, "Avian H5N1 Influenza in Cats" (Science, Vol. 306, Issue 5694), showed that domestic cats, too, can be infected if fed uncooked meat from H5N1-infected chickens. Perhaps even more disturbing, this latter study showed that infected domestic cats were capable of spreading infection directly to other cats. A third report, "Influenza A Virus (H5N1) Infection in Cats Causes Systemic Disease with Potential Novel Routes of Virus Spread within and between Hosts" (American Journal of Pathology, Vol. 168, No. 1), published in January 2006, more fully described the disease in cats. It further confirmed that domestic cats can be infected by eating infected birds, and that infected cats can spread infection to other cats, most likely through feces, urine, and secretions from the respiratory tract. As noted before, there is currently no evidence that influenza-infected cats can in turn infect humans.

You see, the threat is existent. The worry is that cats can become vectors for human bird flu if the virus mutates. The assumption is that if the flu can be transmitted from one cat to another as opposed to cats and people getting it only from birds, that cats could begin to spread Bird Flu to people.

The reference to cats animalmal shelters is especially disturbing in that the Assembly could easily pass a law concerning the need to quarantine and kill cats during a pandemic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The person who sent the e-mail does not hate cats and helps cats every day. I sent the e-mail to give you a "heads up" on possible future problems. There has been cat to human transmission, I have seen the report and that is when I spoke with Vector Control. They had already been alerted to this report. And that is when I was told this problem is being addressed very quietly. They know what will happen if and when some decision has to be made about cats and the outside. Please take this in the vein it was intended, to help, not to condemn cats.