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Cats hit by bird flu in Indonesia

CATS INFECTED with the deadly bird flu virus have been found near poultry markets in Indonesia, prompting the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to say that pet cats should be monitored for signs of bird flu or avian influenza.

The announcement comes in the wake of the second – and most significant – outbreak of Avian Flu that hit the UK two weeks ago with the infection of thousands of turkeys at Bernard Matthews’ Turkey Farm in Suffolk.

The UN FAO said that cats, like humans, can become infected with the deadly strain of the H5N1 virus that causes avian flu, possibly from eating infected birds, or from being in very close contact with infected birds or their faeces. But they emphasize there is no evidence of a sustained cat-to-cat transmission or of cats passing the deadly strain to humans.

Meanwhile the US embassy in Indonesia has advised its citizens to keep away from stray cats as a precaution against becoming infected with lethal H5N1. They said that they had received confirmation of wild and stray cats carrying the deadly virus.

The FAO is advising that cats should be kept away from infected birds wherever possible, and where poultry is being raised on a commercial basis, cats should be kept indoors.

No cull

The FAO does not advise culling cats as a safety measure against the spread of lethal H5N1; at the moment the strategy is simply to reduce the opportunity for the virus to move into a cat population on a sustained basis where it might mutate into a strain that could infect humans or cause widespread infection in the cat population.