Web Zap*Germs Archive

April 06, 2006

First Thing We Do: Let's Kill All the Cats

bird-flu vector?
Will felines someday take the place of attorneys in Shakespeare's famous statement? If a full-blown, human-transmissible bird-flu epidemic ever does come about, well, putting down Fluffy may mean the difference between (human) life and death.

Think I'm kidding? "Cats are significantly more likely to catch and pass on bird flu than has generally been thought and could help the virus to mutate to cause a human pandemic, scientists said today." Read more

Update: NYT reports today:
Five leading European scientists are criticizing officials involved in human and animal health in an article appearing today, saying the officials are not doing enough to monitor cats, dogs and other carnivores for their possible role in transmitting avian influenza.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists also urge people living in areas where the A(H5N1) virus has infected poultry and other birds to keep their cats indoors.

The scientists are from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. They directed much of their criticism at the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health for emphasizing the lack of evidence that domestic cats play a role in transmitting the virus and contending that more research is needed.

Cats, tigers and leopards are known to have been infected with the virus in Asia and Europe. An author of the article, Dr. Albert Osterhaus, a virologist and veterinarian at Erasmus Medical Center, has performed experiments showing that cats can give the virus to other cats. But whether they do so in real life, and if so how often, is unknown.


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