24 December 2016

HEALTH - Vet Gets Avian Influenza From Cats

The New York Health Department announced the risk of humans contracting the avian flu from sick cats is low despite a veterinarian getting the virus.

The vet was involved in obtaining respiratory specimens from sick cats at the Animal Care Centers of NYC’s (ACC) Manhattan shelter and had prolonged close exposure. The illness was mild, short-lived, and has resolved.

“Any time a flu strain jumps from one type of animal, a bird to another, a mammal, we get concerned about its potential threat to the health of humans,” Deputy Health Commissioner Jay Varma, M.D., told Pix11 TV.

More than 160 ACC employees and volunteers, including several people who had similar exposure to sick cats, were screened by the Health Department and were not infected with the H7N2 virus.

The Health Department also contacted more than 80% of the people who adopted cats from the Manhattan shelter, and none is suspected of having the virus.

"As a general rule, influenza is what concerns us most," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden told NBC News.

"We are always concerned about the possibility of re-assortment between animal flu and human flu so, this is something that we have been watching very closely."

Since testing began in November 2016, over 100 cats from ACC have tested positive for avian influenza H7N2.

This is the first time cats have contracted a strain of bird flu.

Most of the infected cats showed mild symptoms and recovered, however one elderly cat developed pneumonia and died.

More information about avian influenza can be found on the New York Health Department website.

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