Avian-type influenza sickens cats, veterinarian

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An avian-type influenza virus had infected 386 cats at a temporary quarantine facility for cats from Animal Care Centers of New York City shelters as of mid-January as well as one veterinarian who was involved in obtaining respiratory specimens from sick cats.

Information from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory indicates the H7N2 avian influenza A virus responsible for the outbreak is a rare subtype found for the first time in domestic cats.

Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine has worked with the shelters and New York City Department of Health to manage the outbreak, including helping set up the quarantine facility during shelter disinfection.

City health department information indicates most cats had mild illness. The virus appears to be very contagious among cats.

Cats at a temporary quarantine facility (Courtesy of ASPCA)

The veterinarian’s illness was mild. There was no documented human-to-human transmission.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with funding from Maddie’s Fund, established the temporary quarantine shelter in the borough of Queens. In early January, the Animal Care Centers and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals transported more than 450 cats to the temporary shelter from shelters in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. The cats were to be quarantined until testing by the University of Wisconsin veterinary school indicated that they are healthy and no longer contagious, likely 45 to 90 days.

The Animal Care Centers hired a professional cleaning company to service all facilities and planned to resume cat adoptions once the cleaning process was complete.

The H7N2 strain has been known to circulate among poultry and wild birds and was last identified in the New York City area in 2006, when it was found in live bird markets, health department information states.