Cats Reported Dead In USA Amid Virus


Four more cats have died from H5N1 bird flu in the United States, including two pets in South Dakota that had no known contact with poultry or dairy cows. This information was confirmed by state and federal officials. In total, at least 14 cats have died from bird flu recently.

The two domestic cats in South Dakota died at a property in Campbell County. According to Beth Thompson, the state’s veterinarian, there was no livestock on the property where the cats lived. Thompson stated, “No other details regarding how the cats were infected are known at this time.”

In addition to the cases in South Dakota, two other cases were reported in Michigan. One was in Isabella County and the other in Ionia County. Both of these cases involved barn cats on commercial dairy farms where cows were also infected with H5N1. At the Ionia County property, two Virginia opossums were also infected with the bird flu virus.

Shilo Weir, a spokesperson for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that cats are particularly susceptible to H5N1 viruses. Weir mentioned that most of the sick cats have been found near affected poultry facilities or dairies.

Since the virus was confirmed in dairy cows in late March, at least 14 cats in the United States have died from H5N1 bird flu. The actual number of infected cats is believed to be higher because of limited testing.

Earlier this month, officials confirmed that a domestic cat in Montana was also infected with H5N1. This cat exhibited “neurologic signs,” and a dead skunk was found on the property, though it’s unclear if the skunk was also infected.

The global spread of H5N1 clade and its recent transmission to a growing number of mammals have raised concerns about the possibility of human-to-human transmission from a future variant. So far, only a few human cases have been found after contact with infected birds or cattle.

In late March, the USDA announced that bird flu had been found in dairy cows in Kansas and Texas, marking the first-ever cases in cattle. Since then, outbreaks at dairy farms have increased to 51 in nine states. Additionally, a farm worker in Texas tested positive for the virus.

The CDC has asked state health departments to continue influenza surveillance at enhanced levels throughout the summer to detect potential bird flu cases in the community. More samples will also be submitted for subtyping to distinguish between seasonal flu and H5N1.

Earlier this month, the U.S. government announced nearly $200 million in funding to combat the spread of H5N1 bird flu in dairy cows. This funding will support dairy farms, testing, vaccine development, surveillance, and measures to ensure the safety of commercial milk.

Cats are known to be highly vulnerable to this new strain of H5N1 bird flu. The first case in a cat with this variant was reported near a duck farm in southern France in December 2022. In 2023, nearly 40 cats died at two animal shelters in South Korea after eating contaminated cat food, and in Poland, more than a dozen cats died from eating contaminated raw meat.

In the United States, at least 27 cats have been infected with H5N1 bird flu, including the 14 recent cases. The other 13 cases occurred last year and were linked to infected poultry or wild birds.


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