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The Iowa Department of Public Health reported the first confirmed case of H1N1 in a house pet, a 13-year-old domestic shorthaired cat.
The animal likely contracted the virus from its owners, veterinarians say, since two of the three family members living in the cat’s household had recently suffered from influenza-like illness.
When the cat came down with flu-like symptoms — malaise, loss of appetite — its owners brought it to Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment. The family mentioned to the vet that they had also recently battled illness, which led to testing the pet for H1N1.
It’s not yet clear how vulnerable cats, dogs and other household animals may be to the new virus, but the Iowa cat’s case reinforces just how different H1N1 is from seasonal flu viruses.
“There has never been a report of human seasonal influenza affecting cats or dogs,” says Dr. Julie Levy, director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Florida.
“In theory, cats could infect humans, but there is no evidence for that yet,” added Torres, former chief veterinary officer of the United States who is now associate dean for public policy at Cornell University‘s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Among animals, the virus does not appear to spread easily, which may further suggest that pets are not ideal reservoirs for influenza.
The cat seems to be recovering well from its bout with H1N1, by the way.
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