Veterinarians say avian influenza has been detected in cats in Nebraska

Veterinarians are sounding the alarm about avian flu starting to show up in pets.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 3:45 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Avian influenza appears to be creeping closer into homes.

Pathologists say they’ve detected cases of the virus, commonly known as the bird flu, in three cats in Nebraska.

Veterinarian Michael Bosilevac of Omaha, says it’s likely more cases have gone undetected.

“It’s just something else we have to think about now,” he said.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that has killed millions of birds and caused the price of eggs to soar.

Dr. Sarah Sillman, a veterinary diagnostic pathologist with the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, said the cases found in Nebraska appear to be farm cats.

“They were outdoor and free-roaming, so they had access to infected wild birds,” she said.

Sillman says perspective is important. She emphasizes that cases in household pets remain extremely rare.

“Considering all the cats, that’s a small number but we’re getting more detections certainly than we have in the past,” she said.

Bosilevac says the increase is enough to make him ask tougher questions.

“Deeper questions: Okay, who’s in your house? Or have you taken your cat to a farm lately? Or did you go on vacation lately?” he said.

Currently, Bosilevac says cats and dogs are only tested for the virus after they’ve died. He says it might be time for a change.

“We’re going to have to look at what we can do to diagnose this,” Bosilevac said.

Veterinarians say symptoms include sneezing, coughing and lack of energy.

If these symptoms are persistent in your pet, isolate them and take them to the veterinarian for evaluation.