Monday, May 4, 2009

Relax: H1N1 (swine) flue virus no risk for cats & dogs

Since there is already great media coverage on this subject we decided to restrict ourselves to the very bare bone information, rather than adding to the panic approach for no or very little reason. While the H1N1 (swine) flu has been declared by WHO to now be in Phase 5, just short of a pandemic, it is only spread by people-people contact, and actually has very little, if anything to do with swine (pigs.) Therefore, according to both the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), household pets, such as cats and dogs, should be safe from the swine flu. Dr. Louise Murray, the Director of Medicine at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Hospital in New York City, has this to say: "At this time there is no data demonstrating any risk of dogs and cats contracting this strain of the virus."
But, it appears as if some people just can't live with good news and always need to paint a darker picture, as Meg Wittenmeyer writes in the Denver Alternative Pet Medicine Examiner: "Do we need to worry about our pets and swine flu? ...caution is always a good idea when thinking about the members of your family, including the four legged ones (or feathered). Upon further investigation, the consensus seems to be that there is no absolute answer to the question of whether or not dogs and cats can contract the virus. Viruses change, but historically there are no known dog/cat to human (or vice versa) influenza transmissions. According to Dr.Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, there are two types of influenza viruses: Type A and Type B. The Type A viruses are found in humans and many types of animals, usually strains specific to that species. The type B viruses circulate widely just among humans. The H1N1 virus is a type A. Dogs and cats do have their own versions of influenza viruses, both Type A. The canine influenza virus is an influenza Type A H3N8 virus, and the feline version is Type A H5N1 influenza virus. Thankfully, there have not been any reports of any cases that have spread to humans or from humans to pets. Humans and domestic pets are not similar enough a species to share these viruses in their current forms. So, even thought there is no current evidence that dogs and cats can contract swine flu, this is a new strain of virus, and investigators can't rule it out until more tests are done. In the past, the avian H5N1 flu has infected domestic cats and at least one dog in Thailand, according to the scientific literature. In 2004, the equine H3 virus appeared to infect dogs. There have been no reports of dogs or cats spreading the flu to people."
For more reading on the virus related to your pets visit
ASPCA, CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention), AVMA, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and WHO (World Health Organization).

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