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Cats and influenza from shorebirds

Driskell EA, Jones CA, Berghaus RD, Stallknecht DE, Howerth EW and Tompkins SM. Domestic cats are susceptible to infection with low pathogenic avian influenza viruses from shorebirds. Vet Pathol. 2013; 50: 39-45.
The domestic cat is susceptible to infection with and disease from influenza viruses, including the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus and the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus. In some cases, disease has been severe. There are many strains of influenza and the susceptibility of cats to these is not known, including many strains of influenza of birds, the natural host of influenza. To increase understanding of these viruses in cats and their potential role in transmission, these investigators infected six cats with two mild strains of influenza isolated from North American shorebirds. Infection of the cats with these viruses occurred but no disease was observed. In addition, shedding of the viruses only occurred in one cat. 

Thus wild bird influenza can infect cats. Cats may come into contact with wild birds through hunting and may be exposed to these viruses, though the likelihood in non-water birds, their usual prey, is low. However, the ability of cats to play a role in adaptation and transmission of influenza viruses deserves more research. [MK]

See also: Campagnolo ER, Rankin JT, Daverio SA, et al. Fatal Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Influenza A Virus Infection in a Pennsylvania Domestic Cat. Zoonoses Public Health. 2011; 58: 500-7.