Cats With Bird Flu Found in NYC

The risk to human health from the H7N2 influenza virus is low

cat and bird

The New York City Animal Care Center has been the location of two public health challenges that may have never been seen before: cats contracting bird flu, and a human contracting that same bird flu strain from a cat.

New York City’s public health department is trying to downplay any concerns people might have about the H7N2 version of influenza.

"Our investigation confirms that the risk to human health from H7N2 is low, but we are urging New Yorkers who have adopted cats from a shelter or rescue group within the past three weeks to be alert for symptoms in their pets," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a health department news release.

Additionally, this H7N2 virus is not related to the normal influenza people are fighting off today. The H7N2 virus is a subtype of influenza A virus, also known as avian or bird flu.

Although the seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against the H7N2 virus, the NYC Health Department continues to recommend all New Yorkers get vaccinated to prevent the seasonal flu.

In the United States, there have been previous cases of H7N2 outbreaks, such as in 2002 in Virginia, 2003 in New York and in 2004 in Delaware.

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However, there have been only two previous cases in which H7N2 infected humans in the US. None of those case were related to felines. The patients in these cases successfully recovered from the virus.

Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.

The CDC currently recommends oseltamivir, peramivir, or zanamivir for treatment of human infection with avian influenza A viruses. However, some evidence of antiviral resistance has been reported in HPAI Asian H5N1 viruses and influenza A H7N9 viruses isolated from some human cases.

The United States federal government does maintain a stockpile of H5N1 vaccine. The stockpiled vaccine would be used if a H5N1 virus begins transmitting easily from person to person.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed in these reports.