Household pets could spread bird flu
Scientists are recommending that more research be done into the
potential role of pets in spreading bird flu.
Scientists say that cats, for example, can contract the virus through contact
with domestic and wild birds and excrete the virus from their respiratory and
No cases of humans being infected by a cat or
dog have yet been reported, but researchers are calling for heightened analysis
of the possibility. Pets often live a dual life - roaming outdoors, chasing
birds and then returning home to nuzzle and play with people. Cats have caught
the H5N1 virus by eating infected birds, though the reported cases are rare.
Many experts believe the risk is very low that pets could pass the disease to
humans but this view is not conclusive.
Professor Jeffrey Waage of
Imperial College London - a member of Britain's Department for Food, Environment
and Rural Affairs - has issued a review of the science underpinning the
government's avian flu contingency plans.
"The ability of mammals to
contract and transmit the avian influenza virus has important human health
implications," said Waage. "We know about cats as a potential host for avian
influenza because of the extensive infection of cats in Asia in outbreaks
Waage said that exposure to the virus by feral cats, farm
cats and household pets could be significant.
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