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Laboratory tests today confirmed that a 6-year-old cat in Wisconsin contracted the H1N1 influenza virus, the first confirmed case of H1N1 in a U.S. pet since January 2010.
A second cat in the household tested negative after it also developed severe respiratory disease, although it is now presumed that it too had the virus. Both cats were euthanized after failing to respond to treatment. The owner of the cats had been ill with flu-like symptoms prior to the cats' illness and is believed to be the source of the infection.
In addition to humans and cats, this strain of H1N1 influenza virus has also been found in pigs, birds, ferrets and a dog. There have been no confirmed cases of pets passing the virus back to people.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is reminding pet owners that some viruses can pass between people and animals, so this is not an altogether unexpected event. Pet owners should monitor their pets' health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.
For H1N1, signs of illness can include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, runny nose or eyes, sneezing, coughing or changes in breathing.
The AVMA is actively tracking all instances of H1N1 in animals and posting updates on its website at www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/new_virus.