New York City has quarantined almost 500 cats at animal shelters in an attempt to stop an outbreak of a variety of the avian flu called H7N2. The quarantine was initiated after 386 cats at the shelters tested positive for the virus and three died. Officials said it was the first time that avian flu has been found in cats.
FOX News reported that two of the cats that came down with the H7N2 avian flu recently have died, as well as the original host cat, “a Bronx shelter cat that was up for adoption named Alfred, who became sick in October.” Workers at New York City’s animal shelters do not have any plans to have the cats with avian flu “put down.”
Instead, the felines will be treated for the H7N2 virus, which has reportedly “baffled the medical staff.” Among the unanswered questions about the outbreak that is being investigated is how Alfred caught H7N2. The virus is contagious for as much as three weeks.
Gizmodo reported that Alfred was “a gray-striped kitten at a Bronx animal shelter.” He died “on November 12.”
The H7N2 avian flu virus is not considered to be much of a threat to humans, as it is only considered to be slightly transmittable to humans. However, the H7N2 virus is highly contagious when it comes to cats, Yahoo News reported.
To be on the safe side, employees working with the sick cats are “wearing hazmat suits” when they are in the same room with the cats. One veterinarian who was working with the sick cats also became infected with the H7N2 flu virus.
The symptoms of H7N2 in humans are “generally mild, and include sneezing, coughing and runny eyes and noses.” The main symptoms in cats “are congestion, a runny nose, lip smacking, and coughing.
Another big question about the outbreak of H7N2 in New York City is how it spread so rapidly. The H7N2 avian flu virus can be traced back to 45 cats that were housed last month at a Manhattan shelter run by Animal Care Center of NYC. Cats at shelters in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn later tested positive for the virus.
Yet another question about the H7N2 avian flu’s outbreak among the cats in shelters across New York City is how did it surface when for more than 10 years it had not been seen in any animals. In 2006, H7N2 was found at poultry markets in New York and elsewhere.
Over the last two months, cats infected with the H7N2 virus from shelters all across New York City were rounded up. They were then transported to a facility in an industrial section of Long Island City, Queens. The new location was set up by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and Animal Care Centers of New York City.
According to officials, the sick cats are being tested by University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine workers who are part of the Shelter Medicine Program. Authorities stated the entire process could take as long as three months.
New York City is taking measures to halt the spread of the avian flu, a strain called H7N2, by caring for the sick cats under a quarantine after 386 have tested positive for having it. Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement that anyone who has adopted a cat from ACC shelters should be looking for symptoms in their pets and be prepared to take necessary precautions. New Yorkers who have adopted a cat from an animal shelter especially “between Nov. 12 and Dec. 15” should be watching for his or her new cat to show symptoms of the virus. She mentioned that the risk of humans contracting the H7N2 virus is low.
By John Samuels
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