The number of feline 2009 H1N1 infections in the US continues to grow. Since early November, cats from Iowa, Oregon, and Utah have tested positive for H1N1. Oregon bears the burden of having animal deaths secondary to H1N1 infection, as the cat and a ferret did not survive. Colorado is the latest state to join that list with two confirmed cases of H1N1 in cats. The cats are from different households and were tested for H1N1 after displaying clinical signs of respiratory tract illness for several weeks.
The H1N1 diagnosis was confirmed at the Colorado State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins, CO. Both cats have not yet recovered from their illness. At this time, there are some factors about the two Colorado cats that are still unknown, including the cat’s age, previous history of illness, indoor versus outdoor environment, and single versus multiple cat household status. These factors could play a role in the cat’s susceptibility to infectious agents.
As with the previous feline and ferret cases in the US (see H1N1 kills Oregon cat), and the two dogs infected in China (see Swine flu (H1N1) infects dogs in China), humans are the suspected source of H1N1 infection for the Colorado cats.
Pet owners play a crucial role in reducing the zoonotic spread of H1N1 and other organisms between people and pets. Your vigilance in exercising appropriate hygienic habits may prevent your cat or dog from being infected with viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Practice good sanitary habits by washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. If you are sick, avoid close contact with others, including your animal companions. Closely monitor your pet for signs of illness, especially upper respiratory tract signs. Sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, increased respiratory effort, lethargy, and decreased appetite can indicate upper respiratory tract infection. Should your pet show clinical signs of illness, please schedule an examination with your veterinarian.