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Another contender for bird flu besides poultry; cats!

The hue and cry for chickens is now being transferred to cats. It has been found that cats that eat infected chickens can contract the deadly// H5N1 virus.

Scientists from Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, say the risk is being overlooked.

The first incidence of domestic cats dying of the H5N1 virus emerged in Thailand in 2004 when 14 out of 15 cats in a household near Bangkok fell ill and died.

One had eaten a chicken carcass on a farm where there was an outbreak of the virus.

A dead cat was also found in Germany in March after the H5N1 virus was found in wild birds.

The Erasmus researchers say there is too little data to establish what the minimum dose needed to infect cats is or whether cats can excrete the virus even if they are uninfected.

Professor Albert Osterhaus, the lead author of the Nature report said, "This is a concern where the H5N1 virus is endemic among poultry. We do not want to exaggerate the risk but if it is there then health officials must take the necessary steps. It's not easy for a person to be infected by a cat but where a child is in close contact with a sick animal or it has diarrhoea or is licking someone, it is a possibility. In areas where the virus is not endemic, these measures are not necessary."

A spokesman for the Animal Health Service, part of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, said there were certain parts of the world where H5N1 was present where any bird-eating animal posed a "limited risk" to humans.

So now besides poultry cats too are to be seen with caution.


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