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Avian influenza in cat in Germany (inglés)

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has been informed that a cat infected with the H5N1 virus has been found in the island of Rügen in Germany .

According to the Friedrich-Loeffler Institut (FLI), an OIE reference laboratory for avian influenza, a cat had been found and was examined during the week end for a common influenza infection and was then sent to the AI reference laboratory for further investigation. The samples analyzed resulted positive for the H5N1 virus. Further investigations are currently undertaken in order to assess if the isolated strain is similar to the one isolated from the wild swans on the island.

This is not the first time that felines have been naturally infected with the H5N1 virus. An episode occurred in 2004 in a zoo in Bangkok where more then 40 tigers died and many others were culled due to the infection. On that occasion, investigations showed that the tigers were fed entire carcasses of chickens most likely infected with H5N1. The tigers may have been infected by either inhalation of large amounts of virus that could have been present on the surface/feathers of the poultry carcasses (faecal contamination) or via ingestion of the entire carcasses, including intestines and faeces.

Also other "natural" fatal cases of H5N1 have been reported in domestic cats in Asia . Cats are known to be susceptible to the H5N1 virus. Under experimental conditions cat-to-cat transmission of H5N1 virus has also been demonstrated.

The OIE stresses that as of today, all the natural cases in feline have not led to any change in the epidemiology of the disease that has fundamentally remained a bird disease nor have they led to any recognized virus change in epidemiology or mutation leading to an increased virulence of the virus for felines or other mammals.

The detection of the H5N1 virus in cat in Germany shows the high degree of alertness and the very effective surveillance system in place in Europe . This report comes one day after the conclusion of the two days OIE meeting of Chief Veterinary Officers of the European region, where the importance of the early detection of the H5N1 virus in the control of the disease has once again been underlined.

The OIE supports the recommendation of the European Centre for Disease Control (ESDC) to cat owners, to take animals to the veterinary surgeons in case of the appearance of signs of heavy colds in cats that had free run in areas where the H5N1 virus has been detected.

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