Your Flu Shot Protects Pets, Too
Researchers Studying Human-to-Dog and Cat Transmission
It's the first year for flu shots in the Ward household.
I always get mine, and have already had one this season. (Not to brag...)
My husband, on the other hand, is one of those people who doesn't believe in flu shots.
This year it's different, though, expecting a little one with no immunities.
Or is it?
Apparently this is all old news to the masses — 1970s for cats, 2000 for dogs — but I just learned this week that if the flu finds you, it can find your pet, too.
In fact, pets may even contract the flu from us humans more often than initially thought, and perhaps even moreso among cats, according to recent reports.
Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University are currently studying this “reverse zoonosis” among cases on the H1N1 flu strain, which has some veterinarians urging awareness to their clients.
"We worry a lot about zoonosis, the transmission of diseases from animals to people," said Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, in a release. "But most people don't realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic.
“All viruses can mutate,” she added, “but the influenza virus raises special concern because it can change whole segments of its viral sequence fairly easily.
“And, of course, there is concern about the health of the animals."
Rather than cuddle up with your furry friend when you're sick, Loehr and her colleagues are actually suggesting you keep your distance until you have been without fever unmedicated for 24 hours.
Meanwhile, heed what you learned in gradeschool: wash your hands often and cover those coughs. And if a pet starts to experience flu-like symptoms, too — fever, sneezing, fatigue, persistent coughing or eye or nasal discharge — visit the vet for testing and treatment.
In the first recorded case of H1N1 traveling from human to pet, in Oregon in 2009, an 8-year-old indoor cat died of pneumonia caused by an H1N1 infection while its owner was still in the hospital with the infection.
To date, 13 cases of human-to-dog or cat H1N1 have been confirmed by the researchers, who are now trying to determine whether cats are more prone to H1N1, considering their large increase in flu since the 2009 pandemic.
Flu shots are available now at all the clinics.
Get one to protect yourself, your family, your coworkers and your pets.