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Cats can catch, spread bird flu: study

September 2nd, 2004, 05:23 PM
Last Updated Thu, 02 Sep 2004 18:03:33 EDT
House cats were considered to be resistant to bird flu.

WASHINGTON - House cats can catch bird flu, become sickened by it, and spread it to each other, Dutch researchers say.

The findings may mean the H5N1 bird flu virus that killed at least 26 people in Vietnam and Thailand in 2003 and 2004 has acquired the ability to spread between mammals.

Health officials fear human and bird flu forms of the virus could mix in mammals, mutating into a type that could spread more easily between people, creating the conditions for an influenza pandemic.

In an experiment, virologist Thijs Kuiken of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and his colleagues infected kittens between four and six months old with H5N1 virus.

Virus from a fatal human case was inoculated into the windpipe of the cats.

They found six cats developed an infection and transmitted it to two others housed with the sick animals. Symptoms included fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing and in one case, death.

All of the felines were European short-haired domestic cats.

"This is extraordinary, because domestic cats are generally considered to be resistant to disease from influenza A virus infection," the researchers said in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

The cats appeared to be resistant to the N3N2 strain of bird flu, which is the most common form of the virus in humans.

"The role of cats in the spread of H5N1 virus between poultry farms, and from poultry to humans, needs to be reassessed," the team concluded.

Officials at the World Health Organization have asked farmers in Asian countries fighting bird flu to watch for signs of disease in their house pets.

The findings don't mean cats can spread bird flu to humans, said Klaus Stohr, head of WHO's influenza team.

Stohr said there are two potential reasons. "One is nobody looked," he told the Associated Press. "The other is they don't play a role," since infected cats do not shed nearly as much virus as infected poultry.

Written by CBC News Online

September 3rd, 2004, 09:13 AM
Officials at the World Health Organization have asked farmers in Asian countries fighting bird flu to watch for signs of disease in their house pets.

This is scary do you now of a site I can find out more about this? we have approx 50 birds here and 7-10 cats a little worrysome but I think our birds are healthy. Do you know how the virus is spread?

September 3rd, 2004, 01:47 PM
I saw a documentary about Pandemic Flu strains last year, and it was terrifying.

It has been patterned that approximately once per century, a Pandemic stain of the Flu virus becomes lethal. Pandemic meaning that it spreads rapidly and quickly. Some of you may recall the Pandemic Flu that killed more people worldwide during World War 1 than the war itself did. Hundreds of thousands.

The Flu virus generally comes from livestock where generally it lies dormant, specifically, pigs and poultry. Not all strains can be passed from animal to human.

They are constantly studying and isolating cases of the Flu, because we are due for the next killer Pandemic.

If a strain is transferring from birds, (not just chickens), to housecats, and finally to humans... then indeed there could be a major problem. Most people don't live amongst livestock, except in asia where it is sold on the streets... but most do live around cats.

September 3rd, 2004, 03:29 PM
I really do not think we have to worry about bird-flu in our cats,first we have to have birds with the flu,right?
Secondly we can hardly compare ourselves to Vietnam and Thailand,where live birds,cats and dogs are sold in markets under very unsanitary conditions.
I too have hundreds of birds I feed every day and my cats are all out there with me,I certainly am not worried,I worry more about West Nile :D
Keeping an eye on my four crows every day :)
I can be wrong,don't know enough,but chances that our house cats will catch bird-flu are very,very slim.

October 29th, 2005, 05:10 PM
I also think so that bird flu spreads from bird .Influenza virus is responsible for that disease .Well this is not matter from where it comes but how to face it I mean what is the solution for this disorder .There are a lot of vaccines are available now for this .Relenza seems to be better now as i heard in some very good companies.

Please see one of them...

October 29th, 2005, 11:00 PM
I hesitate to be the bearer of bad tidings but no, there are not "lot of vaccines are available now for this" if by this you mean the bird flu. Tamiflu does have some effect on bird flu - and most experts in the field I know, including Dr. Donald Low,chief microbiologist at Toronto's Mount Sinai hospital (who has now overseen the Sars eedemic and the recent Legionnaire's outbreak and is sought after worldwide for his knwoledge on the topic, concede it is not effective on all cases. There are some strains - like the one in Vietnam - that do not respond to this vaccine.

Tamiflu proved resistant to several H5N1 strains of this virus, esp in Vietnam and also (though to a lesser extent) in Japan. Some reseachers and clinicians in infectious diseases are calling for a change in the way relenza is produced. Currently, it in inhaled - which is one reason it is used less and not as well known as Tamiflu. Tamiflu s easier to administer and to take. It is theorized if ralenza is made avail as an IV format, it would be easier to administer and work much faster. That still however does not address the fact that some 12% of the human population already affected by avian flu were completely resistant to these drug formulations. Scary!!

And as you likely know or have read, Roche has stopped the sale of tamiflu in Canada because of the hugh runs on it by concerned citizens. They will continue sales during the actual flu season so it can be directed to those most in need. I purchased Tamiflu - mostly at the instigation of my dad, who is elderly and in the target high risk population as am I (with respiratory issues as well as being on the front lines of health care) but it must ne taken within 48 hours of first exposure to have any effect at all. More serious is the fact that the medication is not easy to make - though that is being challenged by some Indian pharmacologists, who reverse engineered it a few weeks ago. Roche says it takes almost a year to manufacture, since it requires ingredients from 40 different products - one of which is a derivitive of star anise and is explosive and difficult to deal with in the lab, not anise - whatever they derive from the herb to use in making the medication. (NOTE: THIS DOES MEAN ANISE WILL PREVENT THE FLU!!!![COLOR=DarkRed]

So no, while we all wish there were vaccines for this - the fact is Tamiflu - which does not work for some of the strains of this illness - the reality is exactly the reverse. What little we do have is hard to access, difficult to make, under patent by ONE company in Switzerland and not effective in every strain.

It is a disaster waiting to happen. I am not yet totally alarmed - I suspect I have more to fear from my fried nchicken than avian flu - BUT when avian flu does create a pandemic, it could very well be a worldwide disaster on the scale of the 1918 Spanish Infleunze which killed millions. I have never seen the infectious disease people I know more concerned as they are now and that - more than any missive from some media source scares the heck out of me!

Here is an abstract from an article in the prestigious Lancet Medical Journal entitled Confronting the avian influenza threat: vaccine development for a potential pandemic

The Lancet, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12% of influenza A strains worldwide have developed resistance to the most widely used flu medications.

Sporadic human infection with avian influenza viruses has raised concern that reassortment between human and avian subtypes could generate viruses of pandemic potential. Vaccination is the principal means to combat the impact of influenza. During an influenza pandemic the immune status of the population would differ from that which exists during interpandemic periods. An emerging pandemic virus will create a surge in worldwide vaccine demand and new approaches in immunisation strategies may be needed to ensure optimum protection of unprimed individuals when vaccine antigen may be limited. The manufacture of vaccines from pathogenic avian influenza viruses by traditional methods is not feasible for safety reasons as well as technical issues. Strategies adopted to overcome these issues include the use of reverse genetic systems to generate reassortant strains, the use of baculovirusexpressed haemagglutinin or related non-pathogenic avian influenza strains, and the use of adjuvants to enhance immunogenicity. In clinical trials, conventional surfaceantigen influenza virus vaccines produced from avian viruses have proved poorly immunogenic in immunologically naive populations. Adjuvanted or whole-virus preparations may improve immunogenicity and allow sparing of antigen.