World Organisation for Animal Health

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Susceptibility of animal species to the H5N1 Asian strain

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirm that the animal species playing a role in the transmission and spread of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus are essentially domestic and wild birds.

Although some fifty non-domestic bird species have proved susceptible to infection with the virus, it would appear from the epidemiological data currently available that, among the wild birds implicated in the transboundary spread of the virus, aquatic birds play a major role.

Epidemiological findings and experimental studies have demonstrated that some mammal species, particularly cats may be susceptible to the virus. However, from the data that have accumulated since the start of the current avian influenza crisis (end of 2003), cats do not appear to play any discernable role in the transmission of the virus.

The OIE and the FAO can thus confirm the statement issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 28 February 2006 that "there is no present evidence that domestic cats can play a role in the transmission cycle of H5N1 viruses".

Nevertheless, in view of the susceptibility of certain individuals of this species, it is recommended that cats in infected zones and surveillance zones set up around avian influenza outbreaks be kept indoors.

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