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Outbreak of bird flu A/H5N1 in cats in Poland, where around thirty genetically related cases were recorded in 2 weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) gave the news, specifying that it was the “first report of a large number of infected cats in a large geographical area within a country”.

Avian alarm bell for new pandemics

Unusual deaths in cats

On June 27, WHO received notification from the Polish health authorities of “unusual deaths in cats across the country. As of 11 July – informs the Geneva agency – 47 samples taken from 46 cats and a caracal in captivity were tested, of which 29 were positive for influenza A/H5N1”. According to reports, “14 cats were euthanized and 11 others died, with the last death reported on June 30.” At the moment “the source of exposure to the avian virus is unknown”, but “investigations are underway”.

Known but sporadic infection

The A/H5N1 infection in cats had already been reported previously, but “sporadic”, points out the WHO, with no outbreak characteristics. “As of July 12 – reports the organization – no human contact of cats positive for the A/H5N1 virus has reported symptoms” of avian flu “and the surveillance period has ended for all contacts”.

The risk of contagion for humans is assessed as “low for the general population”, and “low to moderate for cat owners and for those who for professional reasons (such as veterinarians) are exposed to contact with infected cats without the use of adequate protective devices”.

The positive samples

“Positive samples have been reported in 13 geographical areas” of Poland, explains the WHO. “Some cats have developed severe symptoms including difficulty breathing, bloody diarrhea and neurological signs, with rapid deterioration and death in some cases. Overall, 20 cats had neurological signs, 19 respiratory symptoms, and 17 both neurological and respiratory symptoms.”

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