Pets and H1N1 Influenza
On October 5, 2009, a client brought a ferret to a Portland, Oregon veterinary hospital. The ferret had been exhibiting weakness followed by sneezing, coughing, and an elevated temperature. Because the client and her children previously had symptoms compatible with influenza, the attending veterinarian consulted with Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon State Public Health Veterinarian, and both agreed to test the ferret's nasal secretions for influenza. On October 8, 2009, Oregon State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory presumptively diagnosed pandemic influenza H1N1 by PCR from the nasal secretions of the ferret. On October 9, 2009, pandemic influenza H1N1 was confirmed at the National Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The ferret recovered well.
Since then other animals (pigs and ferrets) have tested positive for H1N1.
On October 29th , a cat in Iowa has tested positive for H1N1 swine flu, the first time a cat has been diagnosed with the new pandemic strain, the American Veterinary Medical Association said on Wednesday. The 13-year-old cat apparently caught the virus from one of the people living in the house, the group said in a statement. It has recovered and does not appear to have infected anyone or anything else.
Pet owners should be cautious as we enter this year's flu season. Ferrets are generally susceptible to influenza A viruses under which H1N1 is classified. In this case, it is believed that the human owner transmitted the virus to her ferret.
If your ferret starts to exhibit signs of a respiratory illness or lethargy, the animal should be examined by your veterinarian.
Because of the immunosuppressive effects of influenza, bacterial infection may be of concern. If discharge from the nose or eyes becomes discolored (yellow or green), or if your ferret is coughing, contact your veterinarian.
As with people, treatment is supportive, which means treating the symptoms and letting the virus run its course.
Once a diagnosis is made, your veterinarian may be able to suggest medications to make the ferret more comfortable. You must also ensure that your ferret remains hydrated. If your ferret is very lethargic or off food and water (monitor closely), treatment with fluids and/or force feeding may be necessary.
Minnesota Pig Positive for H1N1
At least six pigs from Minnesota have tested positive for H1N1 virus, the first comfirmed case in the US swine population. This confirms a preliminary diagnosis of H1N1 pandemic virus in swine samples collected during the 2009 Minnesota State Fair between August 26 and September 1.
Consumers are reminded that they cannot catch the influenza virus from eating pork.
H1N1 and Other Animals
- Dogs & Cats: It is unknown as to whether cats or dogs are considered to be susceptible to pandemic H1N1. It is best to protect yourself and your staff when an animal presents to your office with influenza like illness. In the event in which a pet presents to your clinic with influenza like illness and with a history of influenza like illness in the household, you may consider pandemic H1N1 in your differential diagnosis.
- Birds: In August 2009, the pandemic H1N1 virus was detected in turkeys in two farms near the seaport of Valparaiso, Chile. The detection followed a decrease in both the laying rate and the egg shell quality in the flocks without noticeable mortality. Some birds had been in contact with persons with respiratory disease. Backyard poultry could possibly be at risk of H1N1 transmissions from humans. It is important to recognize that Wild Aquatic birds are considered to be natural hosts of the influenza viruses and therefore susceptible.
- Pet Birds: Pet birds can also be susceptible to H1N1. Testing is recommended if the bird and owner both develop an influenza-like illness compatible with H1N1.
- Pet Pigs: Because swine are susceptible to this virus, follow standard flu prevention protocols when handling your pet pig. If you are concerned about your pet pig's health, please contact your veterinarian.
Key Points for Pet Owners
- Prevention: Standard techniques to prevent the spread of influenza are recommended. These include hand-washing and using alcohol-based hand cleaners, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Try to avoid close contact with sick people and stay home from work or school if you are sick.
- Vaccines: A human vaccine is now available. Refer to the CDC Web site for the most current official information on human cases. There is no vaccine for domestic animals, such as ferrets, dogs, cats or birds. Refer to the AVMA website for more information on H1N1 and pets.
Key Points for Veterinarians
- Virus: The virus is a triple reassortant containing genes of human, avian and swine origin.
- Precautions: Wash your hands and wear gloves when necessary (this may be considered when handling animals with respiratory illness). Cover your cough to prevent exposing co-workers and your patients to any respiratory illness.
Testing should be done in animals whose owners have had influenza-like illness the week prior to the illness of the animal. The animal should also present with fever, cough/sneeze and nasal discharge.
When to test for influenza in pets
Oregon State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is able to test nasal secretions of ferrets, birds, dogs and cats as requested. Sample collected should be of the respiratory secretion with a Dacron culturette the sample should be placed in 1-2 mls of sterile saline in a sealable container. (red top blood collection tube will work). For more information and sample collection requirements, please contact OSU VDL at (541) 737-2172.
Use the Animal Influenza Reporting Form (pdf) and fax it to 971-673-1100.