On November 4th, Iowa state officials confirmed that the first case of swine flu infecting a cat had been discovered. The 13-year-old indoor cat was living in the same household as an infected person, and subsequently made a full recovery. On Tuesday this week, the Iowa State laboratory confirmed that a cat from Park City, Utah, who was presented on November 3rd has tested positive for H1N1 infection via serological confirmation, despite the fact that a nasal swab gave negative results. This second cat was also living in the same household as family members who reported flu-like symptoms.
Yesterday, the Oregon state public health veterinarian reported that a third infected pet cat has died from presumed 2009 H1N1 influenza virus infection. The 10-year-old cat became ill approximately a week after family members became ill, and is one of 4 cats living in the household. On November 4th, the cat was presented with breathing difficulties to a veterinarian in Lebanon, Oregon. The cat’s condition deteriorated and it died 3 days later on November 7th. Tests carried out locally confirmed the cat was infected with H1N1, but confirmation is still pending from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL). No information is available regarding the other cats in the household, or if the cat was suffering from any underlying health conditions.
According to the Oregon State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Emilio DeBess, cat owners should not panic. "Despite the unfortunate outcome in the Oregon case, cat owners should not panic. The number of confirmed cases of H1N1 infection in cats is quite small compared to the US cat population. Watch your cat for symptoms and seek veterinary care if your cat shows signs of respiratory illness. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, or conjunctivitis (swelling and redness of the membranes around the eyes). In these instances, your cat should be examined by your veterinarian, especially if there is a recent history of influenza-like illness in the household," said Dr DeBess.
At this time, ferrets and cats are the only domestic animals that have tested positive for pandemic H1N1 swine flu. Pet birds are susceptible to Influenza A viruses and vets recommend that birds should be tested if both you and your bird develop flu-like symptoms. Currently it is not thought that dogs are able to be infected with swine flu.