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The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued an Avian Flu Alert in July following a distressing bird flu outbreak in Poland, leading to several cats succumbing to the H5N1 avian influenza strain. This situation is particularly alarming as it marks the first instance of such widespread infection among cats within a single country.
According to the WHO report, 34 domestic cats in eight Polish provinces have tested positive for avian influenza. What’s causing even more significant concern is the manifestation of severe neurological symptoms in these infected felines, including paralysis and seizures. Such symptoms are atypical for avian influenza infections in domestic animals. Avian influenza typically affects birds, making this scenario highly unusual and raising severe health concerns.
As per the latest information, there is no evidence of cat-to-cat transmission or reports of human illness among those close to the infected cats. Most infected cats were indoor pets with partial outdoor access, while a smaller proportion were primarily outdoor cats with potential exposure to wild birds. This may be a contributing factor to their infection.
Investigations have revealed that some of the infected cats had been fed raw poultry or poultry parts, suggesting that this might have exposed them to the avian influenza virus. The outbreak has resulted in the death of 11 cats, and to prevent further spread, 14 others had to be euthanized. However, individuals who had close contact with the infected cats have not shown any symptoms of illness during the surveillance period, indicating a relatively limited risk of transmission to humans from cats in this particular outbreak.
Apart from Poland, there have been reports of bird flu strains affecting two cats in a feline shelter in South Korea. According to a BBC report, the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain devastates Irish seabird colonies. The WHO has expressed grave concern about the growing bird flu outbreaks in mammals. This could potentially facilitate easier transmission to humans.
Traditionally, avian influenza viruses are confined to bird populations. However, the rising number of H5N1 cases in mammals poses significant challenges. The WHO warns that such cross-species infections might create a bridge for the virus to jump from animals to humans, leading to potential outbreaks in humans. Hence, it is essential for authorities and individuals to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to prevent the further spread of avian flu.
Overall, the Avian Flu Alert issued by the WHO serves as a wake-up call for health agencies and governments worldwide. The unusual infections in cats in Poland and other regions highlight the evolving nature of bird flu outbreaks and their potential impact on human health. It is crucial for the scientific community and public health authorities to closely monitor the situation and collaborate on effective strategies to prevent and manage such outbreaks. Vigilance, education, and swift action are vital to protecting both animal and human populations from the threat of avian flu.
Avian Flu Alert. Stay informed, stay safe.
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