Pet Cat Catches H1N1 Virus

H1N1 Cat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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.

Pigs are the original source of the H1N1 virus and it has been found in several herds, as well as in a pet ferret. Ferrets are especially susceptible to human influenza viruses.

"Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill," Iowa Department of Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey said in a statement. "This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past." Both the cat and its owners have recovered from their illnesses.

The AVMA has a website on H1N1 illnesses in U.S. animals at www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/new_virus. Dogs and horses also can catch various influenza strains, although none have so far been diagnosed with H1N1.

"Indoor pets that live in close proximity to someone who has been sick are at risk and it is wise to monitor their health to ensure they aren't showing signs of illness," said Dr. David Schmitt, state veterinarian for Iowa.

The new H1N1 passes easily from person to person and has infected millions globally since March, killing at least 5,000 people whose infections have been documented.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

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