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Vet Microbiol. 2007 May 16;122(1-2):25-31. Epub 2007 Jan 23.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus in cats and other carnivores.

Author information

  • 1Virology, DMI, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Bd de Colonster, 20 B43b, 4000 Liège, Belgium. etienne.thiry@ulg.ac.be


The Asian lineage highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus is a known pathogen of birds. Only recently, the virus has been reported to cause sporadic fatal disease in carnivores, and its zoonotic potential has been dominating the popular media. Attention to felids was drawn by two outbreaks with high mortality in tigers, leopards and other exotic felids in Thailand. Subsequently, domestic cats were found naturally infected and experimentally susceptible to H5N1 virus. A high susceptibility of the dog to H3N8 equine influenza A virus had been reported earlier, and recently also HPAI H5N1 virus has been identified as a canine pathogen. The ferret, hamster and mouse are suitable as experimental animals; importantly, these species are also kept as pets. Experimental intratracheal and oral infection of cats with an HPAI H5N1 virus isolate from a human case resulted in lethal disease; furthermore, cats have been infected by the feeding of infected chickens. Spread of the infection from experimentally infected to in-contact cats has been reported. The epidemiological role of the cat and other pet animal species in transmitting HPAI H5N1 virus to humans needs continuous consideration and attention.

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