DES MOINES, Iowa — The swine flu virus has been confirmed in a cat treated at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Officials said today it’s the first known case of the virus to be diagnosed in a cat. Veterinarians say the virus also has been confirmed in two ferrets, one in Oregon and the other in Nebraska.
The 13-year-old cat was treated in Ames, Iowa, and is recovering.
The veterinarian who treated the cat, Dr. Brett Sponseller, says two of the three people in the same house had flu-like symptoms before the cat became ill.
The case was confirmed at both Iowa State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Other influenza strains have been known to cross species, but Sponseller cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the cat, including whether other pets also could get the swine flu.
“It’s well documented in influenza in general, but this is the first highly suspected case of H1N1 going from humans into a cat,” he said.
The indoor cat was lethargic, had a loss of appetite and appeared to have trouble breathing after it became infected, Sponseller said. Its owners declined to comment.
Officials said pet owners should take the same precautions against spreading swine flu to pets as they would with humans.
Getting children vaccinated for swine flu also can help prevent the illness from spreading to pets. There is no swine flu vaccine for pets.
Dr. Ann Garvey, Iowa’s state health veterinarian, said it is not yet known how sick cats or other pets could get from swine flu.
“Because we haven’t seen that many cases, it’s difficult to give a blanket assessment on how sick it can make an animal,” she said.