Notes about bird flu, domestic cats and people

It might be useful just to briefly touch on the bird flu epidemic which affects America and other countries. I’m going to refer exclusively to America in this article partly because America’s CDC have some very useful information about it.

Firstly, they remind us that bird flu is zoonotic. It can be transferred from birds to cats and from cats to people. You can see the chain. That’s why it is worth discussing it. I have mentioned this as people ask online: can bird flu affect cats?

Bird flu
Bird flu. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

And we all know that indoor/outdoor cats like to hunt and birds can be on the menu. Sometimes domestic cats eat the birds that they have caught. If the bird is infected with bird flu, the cat might also become infected. And then if the owner is in very close contact with their cat, they, too, might become infected.

The way a cat might transfer bird flu to their owner is through saliva, other body fluids and faeces. So, it is possible to connect that chain I mentioned above.

CDC also usefully present an interactive map of America showing where bird flu is most prevalent. It provides extra data when you hover your mouse over the areas indicated.

You can visit that page by clicking on this link. I can’t guarantee that this link will function forever because very often things change which might break the link.

CDC state that “people should also avoid contact with their pets (e.g. pet birds, dogs and cats)”. That I think is going to be impractical. If they genuinely mean that cat owners should not touch their cat then it certainly is impractical.

However, a cat owner should avoid touching dead or sick birds or for example the water in which there are ducks as the ducks might be infected.

I would also comment that it is possible for a cat owner to give bird flu to their cat if they were infected after coming into contact with an infected bird. That is not mentioned but as the disease can be transmitted either way it would seem possible to me.

Although, the danger should not be exaggerated. I just think that when you read information about bird flu on the Internet you see that it is a gradually evolving problem. In addition, some experts think that humankind is heading towards another pandemic after Covid.

It is just conceivable that it could be a bird flu pandemic but I’m not an expert. I don’t know enough about the virulence in terms of contagion that bird flu presents compared to Covid.

Although, as mentioned, it can be transmitted in body fluids and therefore it could be transmitted through sneezes as the virus can be contained in the air droplets.

CDC do state that “it’s unlikely that people would become infected with the virus through contact with an infected wild, stray, feral or domestic mammal”. The ‘domestic mammal’ refers to domestic cat or dog in this instance.

Some veterinarians might recommend keeping cats indoors. Other experts will advise the same, such as the Vermont Fish and Wildlife department. And they recommend making sure that your cat is well fed so if they go hunting, they won’t eat the bird.

One last point, CDC state that the number of birds affected in the US at April 12, 2023 is: 58,645,211. That seems like a lot. They state that there have been 818 outbreaks with 408 counties and 47 states affected.

1 thought on “Notes about bird flu, domestic cats and people”

  1. Very concerning because the woman got it from a “Wet Market”. You would think after covid-19 starting at a Chinese “Wet Market” they would have better controls or shut down these markets. I am not buying any food, beauty supplies etc from China. They have few quality control and I just do not trust them any more.

    World’s first human death from H3N8 bird flu was documented

    A Chinese woman has become the first person to die from a type of bird flu that is rare in humans, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, but the strain does not appear to spread between people.

    The 56-year-old woman from the southern province of Guangdong was the third person known to have been infected with the H3N8 subtype of avian influenza, the WHO said in a statement late on Tuesday.

    All of the cases have been in China, with the first two cases reported last year.

    The Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported the third infection late last month but did not provide details of the woman’s death.

    The patient had multiple underlying conditions, said the WHO, and a history of exposure to live poultry.

    Sporadic infections in people with bird flu are common in China where avian flu viruses constantly circulate in huge poultry and wild bird populations.

    Samples collected from a wet market visited by the woman before she became ill were positive for influenza A(H3), said the WHO, suggesting this may have been the source of infection.

    Though rare in people, H3N8 is common in birds in which it causes little to no sign of disease. It has also infected other mammals.

    There were no other cases found among close contacts of the infected woman, the WHO said.

    “Based on available information, it appears that this virus does not have the ability to spread easily from person to person, and therefore the risk of it spreading among humans at the national, regional, and international levels is considered to be low,” the WHO said in the statement.

    Monitoring of all avian influenza viruses is considered important given their ability to evolve and cause a pandemic.

    (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Christopher Cushing)


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