Canine flu now affecting cats too
The University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Veterinary Medicine Shelter Medicine Program has identified a group cats in a shelter in northwestern Indiana as being infected with the H3N2 influenza virus previously thought to affect dogs only.
“Suspicions of an outbreak in the cats were initially raised when a group of them displayed unusual signs of respiratory disease,” said Sandra Newbury, director of the UW Shelter Medicine Program, in a press release from the university. “While this first confirmed report of multiple cats testing positive for canine influenza in the U.S. shows the virus can affect cats, we hope that infections and illness in felines will continue to be quite rare.”
Affected cats were showing clinical signs of a runny nose, congestion, general malaise, lip smacking and excessive salivation. The signs have resolved quickly, and no cats have died of the infection.
Cases of feline infection had been previously reported in South Korea, and in one case last year, a cat had been found to be infected with the H3N2 virus in the United States. This new outbreak indicates that the virus can replicate and spread from cat to cat.
“Sequential sampling of these individual cats have shown repeated positives and an increase in viral loads over time,” said Kathy Toohey-Kurth, MS, PhD, the virology section head at the UW Diagnostic Laboratory.
Dogs in the same shelter in Indiana have also been reported to be infected, so UW is working to help manage the outbreak.
“At this time, all of the infected cats have been quarantined, and no infected cats or dogs have left this shelter,” Newbury says. “We will continue to watch carefully for instances of the disease.”
Newbury recommends that dogs or cats suspected of infection should be housed separately and that precautions be taken to prevent spread from hands or clothing. No vaccine is available for cats since the H3N2 vaccine is only for dogs.