Could your cat give you 'bird flu?'

November 15, 2017

(HealthDay)—U.S. scientists are reporting a case of a veterinarian who apparently caught "bird flu" from an infected cat at a New York City animal shelter.

The case occurred in December 2016. The unnamed veterinarian got through the battle with the H7N2 strain of influenza, but the cat died, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the past, people—often poultry workers—have contracted H7N2 from close proximity to birds. However, "we know of no other reported instances of direct transmission from a cat to a human," according to a CDC team led by microbiologist and influenza researcher Dr. Atanaska Marinova-Petkova.

Extensive lab testing at CDC facilities showed that the genetic makeup of the H7N2 strains the cat and veterinarian had were 99.9 percent similar and "related to H7N2 viruses isolated from poultry in the United States," the researchers said.

More than 350 other people were tested for the flu virus, but none tested positive, according to the New York City Department of Health.

The case report suggests that H7N2 has undergone "many genetic changes" in both humans and cats, and points to a troubling "onward evolution of the virus since it was last detected in poultry and wild birds," the CDC researchers said.

But one specialist in infectious respiratory illnesses said it's not time for pet owners to push the panic button.

"Can you catch influenza from your cat? The answer is yes," said Dr. Alan Mensch, a pulmonologist at Northwell Health's Plainview and Syosset hospitals, in Long Island, N.Y. "However, it is extremely rare, this being the only case reported."

Still, the case means that "the CDC and medical experts must remain vigilant," Mensch said. "It is within the realm of possibility that eventually a pathogenic form of , such as highly , can affect one of our domestic animals and that , in turn, can develop the ability to affect humans."

He also stressed that—as happened with the veterinarian—a bout of H7N2 would be unpleasant but not fatal.

And the precautions against pet-transmitted viruses are the same as those between humans. "One should avoid being exposed to secretions from a cat or dog who is demonstrating any form of illness and frequently wash your hands when your animal is ill," Mensch said.

Dr. Sunil Sood directs pediatrics at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. He agreed that caution—not panic—is warranted.

"This occurrence of transmission from a pet is very much the exception," Sood said. "It was an avian flu strain, one that is still very unlikely to infect humans."

The case report was published Nov. 16 in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Explore further: Bird flu strain may have jumped from cat to human

More information: Alan Mensch, M.D., pulmonologist and senior vice president, medical affairs, Northwell Health's Plainview and Syosset Hospitals, Long Island, N.Y.; Sunil Sood, M.B.B.S., chairman, pediatrics, Southside Hospital, Bay Shore, N.Y.; Nov. 16, 2017, Emerging Infectious Diseases

Find out more about the avian flu at Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Related Stories

Bird flu strain may have jumped from cat to human

December 23, 2016
(HealthDay)—A veterinarian appears to have been infected with a strain of avian flu known as H7N2 that spread among more than 100 cats housed at New York City animal shelters. If confirmed, this would be the first known ...

Avian flu found in SE Wash. backyard flock

January 3, 2015
Avian influenza has been found in a backyard poultry flock in southeast Washington after previously showing up in wild birds in the northwest part of the state, but there is no immediate public health concern, state officials ...

NIAID flu experts examine evolution of avian influenza

January 18, 2017
Few influenza viruses are as widespread and adaptable as avian influenza viruses, and scientists are not entirely sure why.

Minnesota lifts final remaining bird flu quarantines

December 15, 2015
Minnesota has lifted the last remaining quarantines on poultry farms that were infected with a deadly form of bird flu, officials announced Tuesday, marking a milestone in the state's recovery from an outbreak that cost its ...

Recommended for you

Lung-on-a-chip simulates pulmonary fibrosis

May 25, 2018
Developing new medicines to treat pulmonary fibrosis, one of the most common and serious forms of lung disease, is not easy.

Reconstructing Zika's spread

May 24, 2018
The urgent threat from Zika virus, which dominated news headlines in the spring and summer of 2016, has passed for now. But research into how Zika and other mosquito-borne infections spread and cause epidemics is still very ...

Tick bite protection: New CDC study adds to the promise of permethrin-treated clothing

May 24, 2018
The case for permethrin-treated clothing to prevent tick bites keeps getting stronger.

Molecular network boosts drug resistance and virulence in hospital-acquired bacterium

May 24, 2018
In response to antibiotics, a gene regulation network found in the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii acts to boost both virulence and antibiotic resistance. Edward Geisinger of Tufts University School of Medicine and colleagues ...

Past use of disinfectants and PPE for Ebola could inform future outbreaks

May 24, 2018
Data from the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak at two Sierra Leone facilities reveal daily usage rates for disinfectant and personal protective equipment, informing future outbreaks, according to a study published May 24, 2018 in ...

Early lactate measurements appear to improve results for septic patients

May 24, 2018
On October 1, 2015, the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bundle of recommendations defining optimal treatment of patients suffering from sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.