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FAQs: Feline infections with influenza A in New York

How many cats have been affected?

13 cats have tested positive for influenza A virus.  The positive tests were run at IDEXX Reference Laboratories and the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) and Idexx are currently doing further testing to determine the subtype and sequence of the virus.  

Were all the animals in the shelter affected?

Not at this time.  Also, there does not appear to be an unusual level of respiratory disease in the shelter or an atypical presentation.  No dogs have tested positive for influenza at this shelter.

Is influenza likely to spread to cats in the community or in other shelters?

There is still some uncertainty about the subtype of the influenza A virus that has infected cats in the New York shelter so we are unsure how likely it is that infections will spread.  H3N2 canine influenza has been circulating in the US since early 2015 and reports of infections in cats are very rare despite some surveillance and many instances of substantial exposure. We hope infections continue to be very rare.  

Is further spread to cats outside the shelter expected?

At this time no cases outside the shelter have been reported.  In an effort to contain any spread of the virus UWSMP is working closely with the shelter and rescue groups who may be affected.  Diagnostic testing for animals who have come from the NY shelter since 11/23/16 will be paid for by a generous gift from Maddie’s Fund.

Is it likely to spread to humans?

There is no evidence or reports of spread to humans. 

What clinical signs were observed?

The clinical signs were primarily non-specific signs of upper respiratory infection in cats (URI) such as runny nose, congestion and general malaise, only one cat developed pneumonia. It is possible that the clinical signs that have been seen may be the result of co-infections.

Did any cats die?

One cat developed pneumonia and died as a result of the illness.  Further testing by WVDL is pending to determine any other conditions that may have contributed to the severity of her illness.

Did the cats have direct contact with dogs infected with influenza?

No dogs have tested positive for influenza in this shelter.  Cats are housed separately from the dogs.

Should we start vaccinating cats for influenza?

There is no current vaccine approved or recommended for cats.

What should I do if I am worried about my own cat or dog?

Seek advice from your veterinarian.  Let the veterinarian know when you make the appointment that you are concerned about influenza.  Keep your pet separated from other animals.  Diagnostic testing is available through the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

What should I do if I am worried that my shelter is experiencing infections with influenza?

Infections in cats are very rare.  If you believe your shelter is experiencing infections, isolation of sick animals is the best prevention.  Shelters with questions or concerns about outbreaks of influenza should contact UW Shelter Medicine at uwsheltermedicine@vetmed.wisc.edu