Zhou H, He SY, Sun L, et al. Serological evidence of avian influenza virus and canine influenza virus infections among stray cats in live poultry markets, China. Vet Microbio. 2015 Feb 25;175(2-4):369-73.
These investigators collected serum samples from 700 stray cats living near poultry farms or poultry markets in China. The samples were then tested for antibodies against various strains of influenza. Evidence of infection was found for two strains of avian influenza, one of which was the H5 strain of bird flu that has received much press in the past. This strain is a highly pathogenic strain causing high mortality in birds.
They also found evidence of exposure to a strain of canine influenza that is circulating in China and Korea. It was speculated from these results that scavenging infected poultry carcasses, as well as direct and indirect contact with each other could provide the means of infection. This circulation of virus among feral cats may increase the risk of the emergence and transmission of novel influenza A viruses and serve as a threat to both veterinary health and human public health .
The authors concluded cats may play a very important role in the ecology of novel influenza viruses and periodic epidemiological surveillance for novel influenza infections among stray cats could serve as an early warning system for human threats. (MK)