As pet owners, we try our darndest to keep our pets safe and healthy. That's why it's all the more upsetting when something comes along that is largely beyond our control. Recently, a New York City animal shelter had an outbreak of the cat flu. While cats don't normally get the flu, several of the felines at the shelter became infected with it, and one sadly died.
Influenza H7N2 aka Avian Flu
A cat with a respiratory infection which died from pneumonia in mid-November originally tested positive for canine influenza H3N2. But that didn't seem right, so Robin Brennen, V92, the veterinary director of the Animal Care Centers of NYC, decided to contact Sandra Newbury, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program.
Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
After being sent to a diagnostic lab in Wisconsin for an autopsy, along with swabs from other sick cats and a handful of dogs, it was discovered that the cat's death was as a result of influenza H7N2 aka avian flu. This was backed up by the test results from the various other cats' results. This is the first time since 2006, when the strain was identified in commercial poultry, that it had been identified in the United States.
This is the first time, however, that the strain has been seen in cats, which is particularly disquieting. Viruses are known to mutate, but when they cross over from species to species it's alarming. While it has not, so far, been seen in any other states, that may just mean it hasn't been tested for and recognized. There are certain symptoms cats display that you should be aware of.
Signs of Influenza in Cats
Influenza is spread via direct contact with other infected beings or from exposure to contaminated objects. According to TuftsNow, "H7N2 is a low-pathogenic strain of bird flu and appears to cause fairly mild symptoms in most cats—primarily lethargy, a runny nose, congestion and coughing, similar to a typical head cold in humans. However, some cats have developed severe illnesses, such as pneumonia, and a small number have died."
If your cat begins to display any of these symptoms, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian at the earliest possible moment. As always, in the case of people or animals, the earlier diseases and illnesses are caught, the better the chances for survival.