People are being urged to protect their family pets from exposure to sick family members after a cat in Iowa was found to be infected with the H1N1 virus last week.
The Iowa Department of Health and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reported that the 13-year-old indoor cat was brought to the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where it tested positive for the H1N1 virus.
“Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill,” said Iowa DPH Veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey. “This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past.” Both the cat and owners have recovered from their illness.
Until recently, the AVMA said it had no reason to believe pets could be infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus because it is uncommon for flu viruses to jump between species. However, on October 9, a USDA laboratory confirmed H1N1 infection in a ferret. Its owner had recently been ill with flu. Then the cat in Iowa was diagnosed on November 4.
“Indoor pets that live in close proximity to someone who has been sick are at risk and it is wise to monitor their health to ensure they aren’t showing signs of illness,” said Dr. David Schmitt, State Veterinarian for Iowa.
Experts recommend that if you are feeling ill, that you limit your contact with family pets, and watch for symptoms of respiratory illness in them. Signs can include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, runny nose and/or eyes, sneezing, coughing, or changes in breathing (including difficulty breathing).
Dogs also have their own flu virus, the H3N8 canine influenza virus going around. So far this has only spread dog to dog. Dogs infected with this virus show the same symptoms as kennel cough—fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, and maybe a runny nose.