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Can Cats Catch the Flu From Us?

 by danielle on 25 Aug 2014 |
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People tend to worry about sharing their flu with others, isolating themselves from friends and family until they feel better for fear of passing their illness on. Few wonder if their cat, curled up in bed with them while they rest, could catch their illness too. 

A great deal of attention has been placed on flus passed from animal to human, such as bird flu and swine flu. Strains of influenza are able to evolve in animal populations and jump the species barrier to people, a process known as ‘zoonosis’. However ‘reverse zoonosis’, as it is known, is also possible, with disease transferring from human carriers to animals that they come into contact with.

H1N1 virus, a recent influenza pandemic strain, had its origins in domestic animals. It has been revealed that H1N1 virus can also be given to animals by humans as well, with a cat being reportedly affected by the disease following infection by its owner. In Oregon in 2009, a woman was hospitalized and diagnosed as severely afflicted by the disease. Her pet, an indoor cat that was never exposed to other cats, environments or people, died of pneumonia stemming from the H1N1 infection which it had caught from their owner.
Between 2011 and 2012 research identified a further thirteen cats and one dog affected by H1N1 which they appeared to have caught from humans. Some pet ferrets, who subsequently died, were also discovered to have obtained the disease from their owners. The animals displayed similar symptoms to human flu sufferers – they quickly developed difficulties with respiration and lack of appetite. Veterinary research by Oregon State University and Iowa State University suggests transference is possible in many flu strains and many cases have gone undiagnosed.

This phenomenon is not cause for mass panic. It simply means that it is possible for your cat (even if it is relatively unlikely) to catch your flu. When sick, it is advisable to maintain good hygiene such as washing your hands before handling your cat and observing your cat for signs of illness such as sniffling or mucous discharge. In most cases, a flu is not serious, and you will both be better in no time. 



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