The World Health Organization (WHO) raised concerns after the deadly bird flu killed dozens of cats in Poland. The body sent out advisories over the issue since it has become the first report of a high number of infected cats over a wide area within a country. The international body notified that around 46 cats have been tested for the virus and 29 of them were reported to be positive for influenza A (H5N1). Around fourteen cats were reported to have been euthanised and further 11 cats died due to the virus. The last death was reported on June 30.
“The risk of human infections following exposure to infected cats at the national level is assessed as low for the general population, and low to moderate for cat owners and those occupationally exposed to H5N1-infected cats (such as veterinarians) without the use of appropriate personal protective equipment,” the statement reads. The organisation assured that it is monitoring the situation and epizootic investigations are currently underway.
The horrors of bird flu
Since the end of 2021, there have been an unprecedented number of bird flu outbreaks among poultry around the world. Earlier this month, the WHO warned that the recent outbreak of the deadly virus has the potential to infect people quickly. “Avian influenza viruses normally spread among birds, but the increasing number of H5N1 avian influenza detections among mammals—which are biologically closer to humans than birds are—raises concern that the virus might adapt to infect humans more easily,” the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday. “In addition, some mammals may act as mixing vessels for influenza viruses, leading to the emergence of new viruses that could be more harmful to animals and humans,” the body added.
Some of the cats infected by the virus developed severe symptoms including difficulty in breathing, bloody diarrhoea and neurological signs, with rapid deterioration and fatal death in some cases. Out of the samples collected 20 cats had neurological signs, 19 had respiratory signs and 17 had both symptoms. However, the body assured that the risk of humans getting affected by the outbreak in Poland is relatively low. “Therefore, based on current information, the risk of human infections following exposure to infected cats at the national level is assessed as low for the general population, and low to moderate for cat owners and those occupationally exposed to A(H5N1)-infected cats (such as veterinarians) without the use of appropriate personal protective equipment,” the body concluded.