Do cats have bird flu?increased threat

A worldwide outbreak of H5N1 bird flu has ravaged wild birds and poultry and continues to spread to mammals, one step closer to a possible outbreak in humans.

Of course, as the coronavirus pandemic has taught us the importance of responding early and aggressively to outbreaks…

Sorry, just kidding; it’s not funny that we obviously haven’t learned much from the covid-19 outbreak.

Not enough is being done about an out-of-control H5N1 outbreak on a Finnish fur farm or a mysterious outbreak in Polish domestic cats.

Finland, one of Europe’s largest fur producers, is battling outbreaks among captive mink, foxes and Japanese raccoons, species that scientists warn are more likely to develop a variant that can infect and cause outbreaks in humans.

Even the Finnish Food Authority noted in its culling bulletin that mink are susceptible to both human and bird flu. If an animal is infected with both viruses at the same time, the viruses mix their genes to produce bird flu that can infect humans. However, they did not close down the Finnish fur farms. Instead, the Finnish Wildlife Service allows fur farmers to kill wild birds in large numbers near their farms. The agency told me that the killings were authorized “to prevent contact between infected birds and animals on fur farms,” ​​but the scientists said it was a wrong and possibly useless strategy… since then , more Finnish fur farms announced new shoots.

Separately, Polish authorities say an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in domestic cats this summer has so far killed 29 animals, although cat owners have listed as many as 89 sick animals. The outbreak has many unusual features that make it particularly worrisome, but how it happened remains to be explained and not thoroughly investigated.

Affected cats live in different parts of Poland, but their viruses have nearly identical genetic sequences. Obviously, they cannot infect each other. Wild birds are an unlikely source of the virus, especially since some felines have never been outdoors and the country bordering Poland has not yet seen an outbreak. It is clear that the outbreak originated in the country.

Scientists and cat owners are skeptical of cat food.

Another twist is that the viruses from all sick cats in Poland had two specific genetic mutations found almost exclusively in mammals, so either all cats were infected and their viruses independently produced these mutations, or both And there are. Mutations are already present in the things that infect them. .

Tom Peacock, who studies influenza at Imperial College London, told me that the cats likely ate the meat of diseased mammals or the meat of birds in which the virus produced these mutations, which are often associated with adaptations to mammals. related.

Also read PL Plus: Will the Chinese wave finally sweep across Central America?

Either way it’s shocking, and we still don’t know how these scattered cats got infected with the H5N1 virus.

Polish scientists were only able to analyze five food samples, one of which (chicken intended for human consumption was also fed to cats) was found to be positive for the H5N1 virus; however, as the scientific report points out, this was only one sample, possibly after the animal became ill at home polluted.

H5N1 virus was also recently detected in two cat shelters in Seoul, South Korea. Authorities suspected its source to be cat food and recalled two breeds of the same brand. While research there may provide some answers, the situation is not the same as in Poland because Korean cats live in the same place.

Extensive testing throughout the food chain is necessary to determine the true source.

However, authorities have not released any information about if any such investigations are underway in Poland.

Poland is the largest poultry exporter in the EU, so any involvement in the poultry food chain has economic consequences.

Poland is also the largest mink farming country in the EU. An obvious concern is that mink could be infected with H5N1 and that mink meat would somehow contaminate the food chain and end up in cats.

Unfortunately, Polish mink farms have been embroiled in the country’s culture wars. While the ban has broad support, an attempt to ban mink farms earlier in 2020 nearly brought down the government. The far right in particular has mobilized against it. Members of the family that controls the vast majority of mink farms in Poland said the proposed ban was supported by “people who advocate for LGBTQ, same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc.” The Conservative government made concessions.

This kind of short-sightedness is not the patent of extreme right forces. In the U.S., a provision banning mink farming passed the House of Representatives last year but was defeated in the Senate following a bipartisan effort: many Democratic senators and Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (many mink farms in Wisconsin remain have mink work) together to lift the ban. from legislation.

What happened to mink farms in Poland? Poland may have done an excellent job of preventing mink outbreaks, but they may not have even been identified, and it may even have simply been because they weren’t given enough attention. An outbreak in Spanish mink last year showed that H5N1 is less lethal to mink than it is to poultry (it can kill 80% to 90% of infected animals), so unless adequate surveillance measures are in place, outbreaks are unlikely May not be detected. These milder outbreaks can lead to pandemics because the early stages can be harder to detect.

Animals raised for the fur industry, such as mink and foxes, are carnivorous mammals that often hunt alone. Keeping them in confined spaces is not only fueling an epidemic, it’s downright cruel.

These furry species are highly susceptible to many human respiratory diseases, not just the H5N1 virus. At the end of 2020, Denmark (then the largest mink farming country in the world) was unable to control the COVID-19 outbreak on its farms despite many efforts and discovered that minks were producing new variants that infected their farms of humans. Shocked, Denmark has suspended operations on its mink farms but is now allowing them to resume.

Another: Is it time to wear a mask again?

We should ban cruel, dangerous and unnecessary fur farming and strengthen surveillance and reporting requirements for H5N1 outbreaks in mammals.

Bribing fur farmers in Europe and the US may be cheaper than responding to a human outbreak, especially when the industry is already in a natural state of decline. Challis Hobbs, executive director of the American Fur Council, an association representing mink farmers, told Roll Call there are only about 100 farms currently in operation as more consumers move away from buying fur. , and there are 257 farms in operation. China also operates fur farms, but could seek an international agreement to increase surveillance and possibly even impose a global ban.

Furthermore, situations like the mysterious cat outbreak in Poland should not be allowed to pass without a thorough and transparent investigation.

Borders and jurisdictions, as we have sadly discovered, are details that viruses don’t care about, but are still unheard of around the world.

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