Scientists have reported the first case if bird flu jumping from a cat to a veterinarian in Manhattan.
They said that this is extremely rare and is unlikely to happen again, but nonetheless advise New Yorkers to keep an eye out for symptoms.
A veterinarian in Manhattan has recently contracted a form of bird flu from a feline under his care in a Manhattan animal shelter.
According to New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, this is the first known case of the H7N2 Influenza A virus effectively jumping from a cat to a human.
To Worry or Not To Worry?
This has gotten many cat-owners extremely worried, for obvious reasons. “Every time a virus adapts in a new animal, like a bird to a cat, we get concerned about the health of the cats and the humans who care for those cats,” said Dr. Jay Varma, NYC health department deputy commissioner for disease control.
However, this is another case that stresses the importance of “reading before reacting.”
Scientists have ensured that this is not a start of a “new plague” and that a transfer like this is very rare and will unlikely happen again.
Other good news is that the subtype that was transferred in this case is not a particularly virulent strain, meaning that it’s not very contagious.
The virus had reportedly infected at least 45 cats in the Manhattan animal shelter, and this increased exposure is probably why the vet caught the disease.
Of 350 people who worked at the Manhattan shelter and/or have adopted cats from it, the vet is the only confirmed case.
The vet also only experienced mild symptoms over a short period of time and has already fully recovered.
More Details About the Transfer
Not only is this the first occurrence of bird flu jumping from cat to human, but also the first case of it jumping from bird to cat. Since last week, over 100 cats in shelters across NYC have been tested positive for the influenza.
There have been no signs of it easily jumping from cat to human, but it seems to jump fairly quickly from cat to cat.
The cat that had transferred the infection to the vet has most likely been identified.
Unfortunately, the cat was already old when it was infected, and its symptoms were so severe that it had to be put down. However, remaining cats should make a full recovery.
Advice from NYC Health Department
The NYC Department, although it has ensured that risk is extremely low, has advised New Yorkers to look out for symptoms.
“Our investigation confirms that the risk to human health from H7N2 is low, but we are urging New Yorkers who have adopted cats from a shelter or rescue group within the past three weeks to be alert for symptoms in their pets,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a health commissioner. “We are contacting people who may have been exposed and offering testing as appropriate.”
“Do not allow your sick animal to kiss or lick your face, and it is advisable not to cuddle with your cat if it has a flu-like illness. These precautions are even more important for persons with compromised immune systems, such as those who are being treated for cancer, or who have other chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, or kidney disease.”