South Korea Reports Suspected Case of Avian Influenza in Cats

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south korea reports suspected case of avian influenza in cats

Last updated on July 31st, 2023 at 01:54 pm

Authorities in Seoul, South Korea, said on Saturday that a cat at an animal shelter had been found to have a possible case of avian influenza.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, it will take about two or three days to determine whether the infection was highly pathogenic.

Two cats at a shelter in central Seoul earlier this week were found to have a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, marking the first mammalian infections of the virus in seven years. No cats or other mammals have ever infected humans with avian influenza.

Humans are at risk from ongoing avian influenza outbreaks in animals.

A current avian influenza outbreak (also known as “bird flu”) has decimated animal populations, including those of poultry, wild birds, and some mammals. It has also harmed farmers’ livelihoods and the food industry. Although these outbreaks primarily affect animals, they continue to pose risks to humans. 

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) are pleading with nations to cooperate across sectors in order to save as many animals as they can and safeguard people. 

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Avian influenza viruses typically spread among birds, but since mammals are biologically closer to humans than birds are, there is concern that the H5N1 avian influenza virus may have evolved to infect humans more readily. Additionally, some mammals may serve as mixing bowls for influenza viruses, which could result in the emergence of novel viruses that are more dangerous to both humans and animals. 

In addition to working with countries on preparedness and response, FAO, WHO, and WOAH have been gathering experts to review the situation, monitor the virus’s rapid evolution, and update recommendations for slowing its spread. They have also been facilitating collaboration across nations and sectors. The virus’s spread to five continents highlights the necessity of international cooperation and awareness in order to safeguard people, animals, and economies. 

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