Virologists suggest source of avian flu outbreak

Lazy eyes listen


A group of Polish experts claims to have discovered the source of an avian flu outbreak in cats that has been perplexing pet owners in the country for some weeks. At least 16 pets have died as a result of the viral sickness, which is uncommon in felines.

On Monday evening, virologist Krzysztof Pyrc posted a statement on Twitter about the conclusions of research he and his colleagues undertook.

“An assessment has revealed that food is one of the likely routes of pathogen transmission,” he said. Pyrc went on to say that he and his colleagues had requested meat samples from the owners of the affected animals.

“The analysis showed that one of the five samples contained the virus,” the researcher explained. He went on to say that various other indicators led him to conclude that raw meat was the root of the disease. Pyrc reported the virus’s emergence in both indoor and outdoor cats across the country, with no evidence of cat-to-cat transmission.

The virologists have urged Poland’s veterinary and sanitary authorities to “consider the inclusion of meat for H5N1 testing,” warning that the virus could pose a threat to humans as well.

Meanwhile, the country’s Veterinary Institute verified on Monday that the avian flu strains found in the nine confirmed cases were structurally identical, as evidenced by genetic sequencing.

“This indicates that the feline H5N1 avian influenza viruses analyzed thus far originated from a single, unidentified source,” the researchers concluded.

The outbreak was first reported in mid-June, with cat owners reporting severe neurological and respiratory problems that did not improve despite medicines or steroids. Since then, many dozen probable instances of avian flu in cats have been reported.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the virus’s proliferation in mammals in recent months. While only a few human cases have been reported thus far, the global watchdog has voiced fear that a new strain capable of human-to-human transmission may emerge and has requested “heightened vigilance” from all countries.