The death toll of H1N1-infected domestic cats continues to rise and now officials at Safari West Wildlife Preserve in Santa Rosa, Calif., have announced that a cheetah caught the pandemic virus last month.
Gijima, an 8-year-old cheetah at Safari West, was coughing and showed signs of lethargy and lack of appetite in mid-November. The zoo's director had recently seen a story in a national newspaper about a domestic cat catching H1N1 and ordered testing for Gijima. The cheetah's test was positive, but it completely recovered in the following weeks. Three other cheetahs at the facility were ill, but only the one case was confirmed to be H1N1, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums responded to the incident by reminding the public that humans cannot contract H1N1 from animals.
Zoo employees aren't sure how Gijima was infected, but believe an animal handler was the original source of infection. They continue their standard practices of frequent hand-washing, sterilizing food bowls and tools such as rakes, and stepping in foot baths on the way in and out of animal enclosures.
In other news, a total of three domestic cats have died as a result of complications from H1N1 influenza, and a number of other cats have been confirmed to be infected but are being treated, according to the AVMA. Additionally, Chinese media outlets are reporting at least two cases of H1N1 in dogs, but the AVMA says no cases in dogs have been confirmed. Several cases of infected ferrets in the U.S. also have been confirmed.
The United States, Chile and Canada have confirmed H1N1 cases in domestic turkeys, and numerous swine herds in Europe reportedly are dealing with H1N1 outbreaks. A few herds in the U.S. have been found to have H1N1, but no large-scale outbreaks have been reported.
Iowa State University has been manufacturing and shipping a swine version of the H1N1 vaccination to producers, and in December the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted the first conditional license for a swine H1N1 vaccine to Pfizer Animal Health. The conditional license will last one year.