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Wisconsin Cat Tests Positive For H1N1

Negative stain of a transmission electron micrograph of the swine flu virus.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

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A 6-year-old male domestic shorthair cat in Wisconsin has tested positive for the H1N1 influenza virus, the first confirmed case of H1N1 in a U.S. pet since January 2010, according to Idexx Reference Laboratories. The Westbrook, Maine-based company confirmed the test result with its Feline Upper Respiratory Disease RealPCR Panel.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which tracks all instances of H1N1 in animals, sent out a media alert today.

The cat had been presented to a veterinary emergency hospital due to respiratory distress. A second cat, a 10-year-old female domestic shorthair, from the same household was also taken in but tested negative for the virus. However, “given the strong-positive quantitative real-time PCR result in the first cat, the H1N1 influenza virus is still the presumptive cause of respiratory disease in the second cat,” Idexx reported. “The shedding period of influenza viruses is short, which may have been responsible for the negative PCR result.”

Both cats were euthanized after failing to respond to treatment.

The owner of the cats had been ill with flu-like symptoms prior to the cats’ illness and is believed to be the source of the infection, according to AVMA.

In addition to humans and cats, this strain of H1N1 influenza virus has also been found in pigs, birds, ferrets and a dog. There have been no confirmed cases of pets passing the virus back to people, the AVMA noted.

The clinical signs of H1N1 virus infection are likely to resemble those of other common respiratory infections, according to Idexx. However, more severe respiratory disease, including pneumonia, may be possible. Clinical signs may include:

  • Coughing, sneezing and oculonasal discharge
  • Fever, lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Dyspnea, tachypnea and respiratory distress

The AVMA urges pet owners to monitor their pets’ health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.

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