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Editors’ Picks: U.S. house cat catches H1N1

A 13-year-old indoor cat in Iowa is confirmed to have had and recovered from pandemic H1N1 influenza, marking another species crossover for the virus.

“Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill,” veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey of the Iowa Department of Public Health said in a release Wednesday.

“This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past.”

IDPH and the state’s agriculture and land stewardship department said this illustrates the importance of protecting family pets from the virus, which in the past has crossed over to swine and turkeys.

People can keep their pets healthy by washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and minimizing contact with their pets while ill with influenza-like symptoms, the state officials said. “If your pet exhibits signs of a respiratory illness, contact your veterinarian.”

“Indoor pets that live in close proximity to someone who has been sick are at risk and it is wise to monitor their health to ensure they aren’t showing signs of illness,” state veterinarian Dr. David Schmitt said in the same release.

The Iowa cat “doesn’t really change anything that we’ve been recommending regarding H1N1 and pets,” Dr. Scott Weese and Dr. Maureen Anderson of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph said on the college’s “Worms and Germs” blog Wednesday.

“H1N1 infection is pets is rare but has been diagnosed in ferrets, and now in a cat. Considering the large number of infected people and the presumably large number of exposed pets, the risk of transmission to pets appears to be extremely low.

“Low doesn’t mean no, however, and taking basic precautions is still wise.”

Hog herds

The confirmation follows the first appearance of the pandemic H1N1 strain in a commercial swine herd in the U.S., at an unnamed farm in Indiana.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, quoted Monday by the Reuters news agency, said the Indiana facility has continued its “routine processing practices” because it’s safe for swine that recover from flu viruses to be slaughtered.

USDA told Reuters it wouldn’t release the name of the city or hog facility or the size of the herd where H1N1 was found “in order to ensure continued high levels of participation in swine surveillance efforts, and because this is not a food safety or public health risk.”

USDA the previous week said six pigs shown at the Minnesota State Fair in September were confirmed to have had H1N1.

While the virus poses no food safety risk, nations such as China have imposed bans on pork from countries where H1N1 has turned up in people. China said last Thursday it plans to lift its ban on U.S. pork.

China’s decision came a few days before the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Thursday confirmed cases of H1N1 in a swine herd in Taiwan. The herd’s owner first spotted clinical symptoms among the animals on Oct. 19.

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