Release Of Domestic Cats
In H5N1 Infected Areas
More Cats Infected With Bird Flu

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello Jeff -
I find it extremely important for people to understand WHY cats became infected with bird flu: The cats were "outside" cats that ate and had close contact with sick birds.
Cats that remain indoors and have NO access to the outside will NOT become infected. People should NOT panic and release cats to the outdoors. As more cats are released into the wild by scared people the numbers of bird flu infected cats will increase.
People who are cat owners need to understand this point. If people are contemplating release of cats or dogs to the wild they are making a giant mistake and helping to ensure a continued cycle of bird to cat infections.
Governments need to make this known.
Patricia Doyle
Release Of Domestic Cats In H5N1 Infected Areas
From Julie Levy
Regarding the (ProMed) moderator's comment that "release of owned cats should be banned:"
Virtually all jurisdictions in the US already have laws against the abandonment of pet cats and dogs. However, animal control infractions rarely reach the level of civic priority to rate enforcement efforts. Similarly, licensing and identification requirements for cats and dogs are widespread, but usually have very low compliance.
A majority of US owned cats are allowed to roam outside, and it is unlikely that stricter laws will change this very much. In addition, there may be an equal number of un-owned feral cats residing in the US. Volunteer groups are attempting to reduce feral cat populations through sterilization campaigns, but the resources available for these programs are scant compared to the resources devoted to traditional animal control programs, which have failed to reduce feral cat populations in the past. Increased support for effective feral cat control programs that are acceptable to the public would be expected to reduce public health concerns and environmental damage and to improve cat welfare.
We have shown that feral cats are at increased risk for West Nile Virus exposure compared to pet cats, and as such, feral cats may represent an ideal sentinel species for other zoonotic diseases endemic to wildlife. Large-scale feral cat sterilization programs are in place throughout the country and may be well placed to provide samples on a continuous basis for serosurveys of H5N1 activity.
Recent ProMED reports suggest that cats are only one of a variety of species that are likely to be added to the list in the near future of species susceptible to H5N1 infection. Their role in the transmission of H5N1 remains to be determined [see commentary].
For background, see:
1. "[5] Hong Kong, precaution re. cats" in: Avian influenza - worldwide (49): Asia, Europe 20060311.0771;
2. Avian influenza, cats: H5N1 systemic infection 20060114.0140;
3. Rimmelzwaan GF et al. (2006). Influenza A virus (H5N1) infection in cats causes systemic disease with potential novel routes of virus spread within and between hosts. Am J Pathol 168: 176-183.
The updated list of animal species (mammalian and avian) known to be susceptible to infection by the HPAI H5N1 virus is accessible at
affected_species_chart.jsp (Note that the list must be scrolled through).
The 9 mammals reported in the list are: Palm Civet, domestic cat/feral cat, Cynomolgus macaque, ferret, New Zealand white rabbit, leopard, tiger, rat and pig. - Mod.AS



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