Cats could play significant role in transmitting bird flu to humans, say Dutch researchers

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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

According to Dutch researchers, tests performed on cats at Rotterdam's Erasmus Medical Center by Dutch show that cats could play a key role in transmitting bird flu to humans.

Reports have noted that there are increased deaths in Europe and Asia involving cats that are carrying the deadly disease and also say that cats could play a key role in allowing mutation of bird flu so it can be transmitted between humans.

"Apart from the role that cats may play in H5N1 virus transmission to other species, they may be involved in helping the virus to adapt to efficient human-to-human transmission," said researchers.

The experiments were performed on eight cats, all of which were exposed to the H5N1 virus in three different ways. In all three cases, the cats became infected. The researchers said that most domestic cats became infected with the H5N1 virus when they came in contact with wild and or domestic birds. In some cases, those cats transmitted the virus to other cats.

However, researchers said that their research was performed experimentally with infected cats and that those experiments did not show a mutation in the virus but did say that "such mutations cannot be ruled out."

Researchers have strongly suggested that cats be kept indoors, but also said that this measure would be "impossible" in some parts of the world.

Researchers also say that cats need to be included in any precautionary measures against the virus.

"We have to take a number of precautionary measures. We need to keep in mind that mammals can be infected and that they can spread the disease, in principle. The potential role of cats should be considered in official guidelines for controlling the spread of H5N1 virus," said Dr. Albert Osterhaus, of Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.


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