H1-N1 Virus in Felines: Information from the AVMAPublished December 17, 2009
Recently I wrote about the H1N1 Flu and some cautionary measures for pet owners to take. The other day, I received an email from our feline-only veterinarian containing information provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association in regard to cats, in particular. According to the AVMA website, updated, December 10, a Pennsylvania cat died from the 2009 H1N1 influenza. Photo credit: Three Eyed Gymp: Flickr This was a 12-year-old domestic shorthair, who became ill on November 3, after a family of four had been ill with flu-like symptoms. The cat had stopped eating, was lethargic and had difficulty breathing. X-rays taken by their vet demonstrated pneumonia, but the cat did not respond to antibiotic treatment, with the pneumonia getting worse. On November 6, 2009 the cat died. While nasal swabs collected tested negative for the H1N1 virus strain, tissue samples taken during necropsy did test positive for the virus on November 14. Further in-depth testing confirmed the presence of the H1N1 virus. Another cat died on November 24, from the H1N1 virus in Oregon. Again, X-rays demonstrated pneumonia and fluid accumulation in the cat's chest. In this case, nasal swabs did test positive for the H1N1 virus strain by the Oregon State University Diagnostic Laboratory. This was an eight-year-old spayed female with a history of allergies, nasal discharge and chronic sinusitis. The cat was aggressively treated with Tamiflu, but did not respond to the medication. Once again, the owner had been sick with a severe respiratory disease which was confirmed as an H1-N1 infection. In France, the Director of General Health made an announcement that a five-year-old neutered domestic shorthair cat had tested positive for the 2009 H1-N1 flu virus, becoming infected after two children in the household had been sick. Fortunately in this case, the cat fully recovered in 6 days. The AVMA website posted an interesting Q&A section, dated December 8, which gives further information about the H1-N1 virus, and which pets are more susceptible. It also provides information about the Dog Flu as well. Here are some of the highlights: "Q: What are the clinical signs of 2009 H1N1 flu virus infection in pets? A: So far, the clinical signs observed in ferrets and six cats have been respiratory problems, such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose/eyes, and possibly fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and respiratory abnormalities. It resembles most other viral respiratory infections. Two of the six cats died from severe pneumonia. If there is a history of recent flu-like illness among the pets' owners and the pet begins showing signs of respiratory disease, a high index of suspicion of 2009 H1N1 influenza exists. Keep in mind that dogs currently have their own flu virus, the H3N8 influenza (canine influenza) virus, going around. So far, this flu virus has only been spread from dog to dog. Dogs infected with the canine influenza virus show the same clinical signs as dogs with kennel cough - fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, and maybe a runny nose. Q: What quarantine measures should we take when handling an animal suspected to be infected with H1N1? A: Right now, we don't know the likelihood that an infected pet will spread the 2009 H1N1 virus to other pets or to people. Therefore, we recommend managing pets that are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the virus in the same manner as a pet with a viral respiratory infection: proper quarantine, hygiene and sanitation measures are important. Although we don't know the risks of transmission of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus from pets to people, we can't say it's not possible Q: Should infected pets be treated with antivirals? A: Most people infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu virus have recovered with only supportive care and have not needed antiviral treatment. At this time, we have no reason to believe the situation is any different for pets. The decision regarding the use of antivirals, such as Tamiflu, should be based on the severity of the animal's illness and clinical judgment. Please keep in mind that these products are not FDA-approved for use in pets and there is limited research or clinical information regarding the efficacy, safety and dosing of these products for pets. Inadequate dosing of antivirals could increase the risk of treatment failure, adverse events and/or antiviral resistance. The necessity of antiviral treatment should be weighed against these risks." To read the entire FAQ section, visit: http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/new_virus/new_flu_virus_faq.asp How concerned are you about H1-N1 flu and your pets? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.