Pets Catching the Flu from People. As winter approaches, many people are rushing to get their Flu shots… but what about Fido and Fluffy? Recent researches reveals the fact that pets including dogs, cats and even ferrets can and have caught the flu from their human counterparts. Many of us are aware that Flu is contagious and easily transmitted from person to person. On the other hand, many of us are not aware that people can transmit the Flu to their pets. In fact, this type of transmission, although still poorly understood is called a Reverse Zoonosis and is of considerable public concern both to scientists and veterinarians.
Since 2009, 13 cats and one dog have been infected with the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus; all died of fatal pneumonia.
Veterinary researchers are the Oregon State University and at the University of Iowa State are currently working to find more of these cases so as to try to identify transmission modes, mutations and new emerging virus strains that may pose a future health risk to people and pets. The study was originally published in the Journal of Veterinary Pathology.
In the past, new influenza virus strains developed and were transmitted from pigs and birds to humans. This new mode of transmission from people to cats, dogs and ferrets is relatively new. Will cats eventually replace pigs and birds as the infection source? This question remains to be answered.
In pets, there is usually a history of the Flu affecting someone in the home. The pet, for example the family cat, develops a respiratory illness with sneezing and runny eyes, stops eating, and then dies.
Researchers suggest that pet owners who have been infected with the Flu distance themselves from their pets. In addition, should a pet begin to show signs of a respiratory or other illness they recommend taking him or her to their vet for serologic testing and treatment.
It seems likely that there are many more cases of this type of Flu transmission and vigilant reporting and testing are ongoing so as to allow researchers to make informed decisions and develop new treatment protocols to protect people and pets.
All viruses are capable of changing their internal structure or mutating but the influenza virus is of special concern because of its potential pandemic nature and threat to our population both two and four footed.
Veterinarians who encounter these cases are encouraged to contact Jessie Trujillo at Iowa State University to share their findings and obtain more information.
Research is ongoing to predict, prevent and curtail emerging influenza outbreaks.