Thousands of Americans have been infected with the H1N1 flu virus, but that’s just counting people. This week it was announced a domestic cat in Iowa also was stricken with the virus — most likely transmitted by sick owners — as well as two ferrets in Nebraska and Oregon.
This sudden infection may have pet owners wanting to put their furry friends in line for an H1N1 flu shot, but state veterinarian experts say not to worry. (H1N1 or any type flu vaccines are a bad idea!! We are over vaccinating our pets, just like we are over vaccinating ourselves and our children.)
“Theoretically, you could pass it on to pets, but the chances are extremely low,” said Dr. Bob Ehlenfeldt, a state veterinarian in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.
The reversal of pets transmitting the virus to humans is even less likely, he said.
The chances are so low, according to Ehlenfeldt, because the H1N1 novel 2009 flu virus is a human disease being transmitted and maintained in humans. It’s unusual for species other than humans to become infected because viruses tend to adapt to certain species, he said.
For example, the bird flu from a few years ago was highly adaptable to infecting birds, whereas this strain of the H1N1 flu is adept at people-to-people transmission, he said.
Besides the cat and the ferrets, the only other non-human species known to have been infected with the virus are about a dozen swine herds worldwide, and recently some turkeys in Chile, according to Ehlenfeldt and Dr. Jim Kazmierczak, a state veterinarian in the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.
The infection of the ferrets, however, didn’t surprise Kazmierczak because the lanky rodents are thought to be susceptible since they are used as laboratory animals and are sensitive to human strains of influenza, he said.
Also, since turkeys were infected, Kazmierczak said it could be possible for other types of birds to get the virus. So far, however, no incidents have been reported.
“The safe thing to do is to assume that while we know cats and ferrets are susceptible, we should assume dogs and pet birds are also susceptible,” Kazmierczak said.
Thus, owners infected with the H1N1 flu should still be careful around their pets and maintain distance from them as you would with other family members. It really is a matter of common sense!!!
For example, Kazmierczak said to relocate a bird cage if it is positioned in the room in which an infected person may be recuperating.
Also, wash your hands before handling or feeding the pet, he advised
By Hilary Dickinson – Published: Saturday, November 7, 2009 12:57 AM CST
Pet parents of dogs and cats can relax for now, say ASPCA veterinarians. While the 2009 H1N1 virus—a faster moving and possibly more debilitating strain of influenza than the typical seasonal flu—has become an international concern, the virus, referred to as swine flu when first identified, appears to present little risk of infecting dogs and cats. However, viruses can mutate quickly and taking important preventative measures remains essential.
“Many species can become infected with influenza viruses, but the current 2009 H1N1 virus, which is a mixture of genetic material from different species, has not been identified in animal populations in the United States to date,” says Dr. Miranda Spindel, Director of ASPCA Veterinary Outreach. “These viruses are notoriously unpredictable, though, and it is important that we remain vigilant.”
In terms of other animals who are susceptible, Dr. Spindel warns that influenza or flu viruses are occasionally transmitted from people to pigs, and the 2009 H1N1 virus has also been identified in turkeys. Pet parents of Vietnamese Potbellies, African Pygmies and other pet pigs should monitor their animals’ health closely, notify their veterinarian of any signs of illness and speak to their veterinarian about influenza type A vaccines. And ferrets are susceptible to most human flu viruses, so pet parents should take extra care to prevent exposure of pet ferrets to people or other ferrets with flu symptoms.
Meanwhile, flu season is upon us and pet parents should take common-sense preventative measures to keep their dogs and cats healthy:
- If your dog is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including coughing, nasal discharge or fever (normal dog and cat temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees), play it safe and avoid taking him to places like dog parks, where he can pass on germs or come into contact with unvaccinated or sick dogs.
- Avoid letting your cat roam freely outside.
- If your dog comes into frequent contact with other dogs or is kept in a kennel, the ASPCA recommends that you discuss with your veterinarian whether vaccination against canine influenza may be appropriate. Note: canine influenza and H1N1 are not the same virus.
- Talk to your vet about what flu vaccines are currently available, and be sure all your pets get vaccinated!
- Don’t let your pet share water bowls, food dishes or toys with other animals.
- Make sure your pet is eating, drinking and playing as he normally does each day. If you notice your pet behaving unusually, or if he has flu-like symptoms, check in with your veterinarian immediately.
Do you Twitter? Use this hashtag to tweet on this article: @aspca and #PetsandSwineFlu
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Posted: Just One More Pet