Although cats can contract the highly pathogenic bird flu, epidemiologists believe that they are not a primary vector of the disease.
In July, a cat died of highly pathogenic bird flu at an animal shelter in South Korea’s Gwanak district of Seoul, Yonhap News Agency reported. Another cat contracted the disease but survived. South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs tested cat food and found the H5N1 strain of bird flu in two types of cat food used at the animal shelter. The cat foods were Balanced Duck and Balanced Chicken, manufactured at the Gimpo factory west of Seoul. The ministry said the company had not followed the required sterilization steps since May 25 due to an equipment malfunction. The South Korean government ordered the cat food manufacturer to stop producing and selling the items and to recall and destroy the inventory. Two cats from another animal shelter in Seoul’s Yongsan district also contracted bird flu in July. The ministry has confirmed several additional cases of avian influenza in cats at the two shelters.
No one who had contact with the cats tested positive for bird flu. Although cats can contract the highly pathogenic bird flu, epidemiologists believe that cats are not a significant vector of the disease and do not play a major role in its transmission to humans or other animals.
Bird flu infection in cats
According to the World Health Organization, avian influenza, or avian influenza, spreads naturally among wild waterfowl around the world and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
The highly pathogenic bird flu is a subtype of the virus. It can cause serious illness and high mortality rates in domestic poultry and wild birds. Viruses can devastate the poultry industry and have an economic impact due to trade restrictions. Some strains, including H5N1, can cross species barriers and cause serious disease in mammals.
In June, Poland’s National IHR Liaison Center notified the World Health Organization of unusual cat deaths across the country suspected to be caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza. As of July 11, 47 samples from 46 cats and one captive caracal had been analyzed. 25 samples tested positive for H5N1 bird flu. Fourteen cats were euthanized. Another 11 people died, and the last death was reported on June 30. Some cats developed severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, bloody diarrhea, and neurological symptoms. Some of the cats deteriorated rapidly and died.
In total, 20 cats had neurological symptoms, 19 had respiratory symptoms, and 17 had both. Epidemiologists have not determined the source of these cats’ exposure to the virus.