State health officials are warning pet owners to take precautions if they’re sick with the new strain of the flu, as a test has confirmed an Iowa cat caught H1N1 from its owner. “Certainly influenza viruses can be transferred to other species,” says Dr. Schmitt, the State Veterinarian, “so while people are ill, they need to take proper precautions.”
Tests conducted at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine confirmed a 13-year-old cat who lived indoors in Iowa contracted H1N1 from its owners. Officials say two of the three people in that household had H1N1. Dr. Schmitt says cats are “social creatures” and people who are sick with H1N1 — or any serious illness — should try to minimize contact with their pets.
“Cats do sleep on owners’ beds, in bed with them,” Schmitt says, “even in the chair when they are sitting watching TV and they’ll come up and cuddle and want attention.”
In early October, a pet ferret in Oregon tested positive for H1N1. “Ill individuals just need to be aware that no matter what disease it is, there certainly is a possibility that their pet or other animals,” Schmitt says.
It’s not just cats and ferrets who can catch what the flu from their owners. “There are several species of animals where influenza viruses can be transferred to and there’s many different strains,” Dr. Schmitt says. “There’s like 16 ‘H’ types that are out there.”
The 13-year-old Iowa cat who tested positive for H1N1 has recovered, as have his owners. Pets who get sick with H1N1 may not cough, but they exhibit other symptoms like lethargy.
“A responsible owner should contact their veterinarian,” Dr. Schmitt says.
For more information about H1N1, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/h1n1/ or call the Iowa Influenza Hotline at 1-800-447-1985.