Cats are vulnerable to certain viruses, but generally, they are not the same ones that afflict us. For example, the flu viruses come in different “strains,” basically A, B, or C. And they affect different species in different ways.
Anyone who has watched the news recently may have noticed that public health authorities have given the Swine Flu a new name: H1N1. As for the strain that affects cats, it’s called H5N1… a different form of it altogether.
Since the Swine Flu is considered more likely to be found in swine, and not cats or dogs, that’s probably how it got its name. But more importantly, because it’s transmissible to humans, it became a huge health issue for the first time in 1976. However, at that time, more people became ill or died from the vaccine rather than the disease, which is now remembered as the “swine flu fiasco.” However, this time around, not even swine are infected. Only people.
The biggest lesson learned from the 1976 episode is that it’s useful to prepare for an epidemic but without committing to it prematurely.
The same lesson should apply to how we manage ourselves in relation to our pets within the potential crisis. And that is, not to panic and begin treatments that do not apply and could be harmful in themselves, either to us or to our pets. However, it is extremely important to monitor everyone in the household and to exercise good hygiene.
Even if your cat becomes ill, and it turns out to be a cat version of the flu, or H5N1, there is absolutely no reason to believe you will be infected. For this virus, there is no evidence of a trans-species infectiousness in either direction. In other words, if you fall ill, you can’t pass it on to the cat, either.
Public health officials have announced that cats and dogs seem to be safe and that there is no evidence anywhere that these pets can contract the infection.
For now, it appears that pigs are in more danger from us than the other way around.
Dr. R.J. Peters established a rescue facility in 2002 and has worked with more than 1,000 cats and dogs. Visit her website, http://www.theproblemcat.com for more articles and information about pets.
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