This is a short post to pass on information that I have read on the Winn Feline Foundation website.
Scientists in China studied 700 stray cats living near poultry markets and poultry farms in China. They collected serum samples from these cats. ‘Serum’ is that part of the blood which does not contain blood cells or a clotting factor.
Antibodies are proteins which are in the blood which are used by the immune system to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses. Their presence indicates that the cat has been exposed to certain viruses or bacterial infections.
The serum samples collected from the cats were tested for antibodies created to fight against certain strains of influenza. There was evidence that the cats had been infected by two strains of avian influenza. One of the strains was the well-known bird flu which has been discussed a lot in online media (H5 Strain).
They also found evidence of exposure by the cats to a strain of canine influenza which apparently is circulating in China and Korea. The scientists speculated that the results indicated that the cats were scavenging infected poultry carcasses. In addition, of course, they were making contact with each other thereby infecting each other.
The scientists state that the circulation of these viruses amongst feral and stray cats “may increase the risk of the emergence and transmission of novel influenza A viruses”. What they’re saying is that the wandering domestic, stray and feral cat may help spread these diseases.
They go further and say that stray cats in China may serve as a threat to both public and veterinary health. That is quite a big statement and a bit worrying. I don’t, in fact, like writing about these things but I do like the truth and stating what is actually happening out there rather than fudging things.
It is an open invitation, I accept, for cat haters like Woody to criticize the stray cat because he is constantly complaining about how they spread disease and regrettably this bit of research in China would seem to support that but we shouldn’t become overexcited about it. It is one research project in one part of the world and may not apply to other situations.
The authors of the research also conclude that keeping an eye on stray cats and conducting tests may help to study the patterns, causes and effects of diseases in certain areas. Indeed, they say it may help to provide an early warning system with respect to threats to humans.