NEWS AND COMMENT: This is a worrying development. I’ve written about bird flu before and the fact that it is a zoonotic disease which means that it can be transmitted between animals and people. Covid-19 is also a zoonotic disease and we know how badly that affected the entire planet.
And today, The Sun, reports that five pet cats in the US have died of bird flu according to officials. That means it’s official and therefore accurate! They also tell us that a dog died of the virus in Canada last week.
All five cats died between January and March 2023. Five lived in Nebraska and two in Oregon. A sixth tested positive for bird flu (H5N1 virus) in Wyoming also this year. We don’t know whether the cat survived or not.
The information comes from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the US Department of Agriculture.
The Nebraska cat became ill in late March. They lost weight and they were lethargic. We are not told how they became infected. It may have been through catching birds and eating them.
It is speculated that the two cats in Oregon court the H5N1 virus from backyard chickens as they lived near to them. The chickens tested positive for bird flu.
The two suffered with the typical H5N1 virus symptoms including weight loss, laboured breathing, dehydration, lethargy, depression.
Commenting on one of the Nebraska cats, Dr. Sarah Sillman of the University of Nebraska’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center said that the first Nebraska cat to die declined rapidly with multiple symptoms including tremors, seizures and an apparent loss of their sense of their own body which is described as ‘proprioception’.
On of the Nebraskan cats developed symptoms and tested positive and Dr. Sillman wrote that this “cat was described as somnolent and had episodes of walking in circles”. The word “somnolent” means drowsy.
This cat responded to stimuli and ate and drank normally although they were neurologically impaired. They lived for 10 days at which point the cat suddenly became “laterally recumbent with continual tremors”. I take that to mean that they laid down on their side shaking. The cat was euthanised.
They do not believe that these two Nebraskan cats caught the disease from each other.
H5N1 is a virus which is developing in seriousness and is concerning specialists across the planet. Because it is zoonotic it is feared by some that it might create the next human pandemic.
In March of this year, two dolphins died of the virus in the UK, specifically in Devon and Pembrokeshire.
If the virus mutates and we know that viruses can mutate after the Covid pandemic, it may become more dangerous to people.
The World Organisation for Animal Health has warned that the virus may mutate inside animals and then the animals might infect people.
With respect to people, H5N1 has a fatality rate of 50%. In the past 20 years 850 people have been infected of which 457 died.
There have been calls, probably in many countries, to create a vaccine for H5N1 early in preparation for a possible epidemic or pandemic.
In Britain, the disease has only been found in one person. That person is Alan Gosling. He had or has ducks on his property. He called the disease from them. He survived.
In the UK, the National Health Service, states that the main symptoms of bird flu in humans, which can appear quickly, include:
- a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
- aching muscles
- a cough or shortness of breath
- stomach pain
- chest pain
- bleeding from the nose and gums