Several Cats in Austria Found With Bird Flu

European cat owners react to recent bird flu findings.

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After Germany reported that a dead domestic cat was found to have the H5N1 bird-flu strain in February, hundreds of German cat owners dumped their pets at shelters, according to Today Online, a Singapore news service.

To date, however, the World Health Organization has reported that no human cases have been linked to the exposure to a diseased cat. It said that all available evidence indicates that cat infections occur in association with H5N1 outbreaks in domestic or wild birds, and no outbreaks in domestic cats have been reported.

The dead cat, which was found on the northern island of Ruegen, may have caught the disease by eating an infected bird, reported the Associate Press.

Just recently, the H5N1 bird flu virus was found in several cats in the southern Austrian province of Styria, reported AP. Although not confirmed, it is possible that the cats came from an animal shelter near Graz, the capital of Styria. Last month, Austria confirmed its first case of H5N1 in a wild bird. Since then, several dozen cases in birds have been detected, including 29 in Styria. Some of those cases had been taken to the shelter.

Since February, the virus has spread to birds in 17 new countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, according to AP.

Posted: March 7, 2006, 5 a.m. EST

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