[Marxism] Bird Flu Jumps to Cats, Too

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 20 00:16:57 MST 2004


Friday February 20, 1:20 PM
Thailand finds deadly bird flu in cat family, poised for more outbreaks

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been detected in a leopard, a tiger 
and two domestic cats in Thailand, experts said Friday as the government 
prepared to announce more outbreaks of the virus.

"This is the first time in the world that we have found bird flu in cats and 
tigers," said Therapol Sirinaruemitr from Bangkok's Kasetsart University 
which tested the animals. "We found the H5N1 virus in the samples."

"One clouded leopard has already died and one white tiger is still alive and 
has recovered," he told a press conference, referring to animals kept at a 
private zoo east of Bangkok.

The H5N1 strain has hit eight Asian nations, with weaker varieties detected 
in Taiwan, Pakistan and the United States. On Thursday Canada also reported 
a less virulent strain in the western province of British Columbia.

The outbreak triggered a Japanese ban on Canadian chicken Friday, despite 
Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew's assurances that the case on an isolated 
farm was being closely monitored and did not pose a risk to human health.

Thailand's hopes of declaring its bird flu outbreak over, and rebuilding its 
shattered poultry industry, were dashed earlier this week when it announced 
major new outbreaks had erupted across the nation.

Authorities said further test results would be finalised Friday and that 
because more bad news was expected, the announcement would be made after the 
close of the stock market which has been rocked by the unfolding crisis.

Dhanirat Santivatr, the dean of Kasetsart's faculty of veterinary medicine, 
said it was possible that other mammals had been infected with the H5N1 
virus which has killed seven Thais and 15 Vietnamese, but urged people not 
to panic.

"We think it is possible. We have been monitoring the situation in all 
animals since the outbreak, but as academics we will not say until we have 
reliable evidence," he said.

"However, the possibility of infection from cats to people is very low... so 
do not panic," he added.

Therapol said the two domestic cats found with the virus were among 15 kept 
at a home in Nakhon Pathom province just west of Bangkok which began dying 
after at least one of the animals ate chicken at a farm hit by bird flu.

The owner took three dead cats and one sick animal to a nearby Kasetsart 
campus for tests which showed two of the dead cats were infected with H5N1.

Tests on the sick cat were ongoing and researchers were also investigating 
whether the rest of the animals had eaten infected chicken or had spread the 
disease among themselves.

Government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair said Thailand had asked the 
Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world's top 
watchdog for veterinary health, to verify the findings.

"The Thai government wants the OIE to cooperate in tackling this issue, as 
analysts have cast doubt that the virus has spread into mammals," he told 
reporters.

The OIE earlier this month dismissed as "unconfirmed rumours" reports that 
bird flu had infected pigs in Vietnam, but said such a development would not 
be surprising because pigs were susceptible to contracting the virus.

So far experts believe all the human casualties were all infected through 
contact with sick birds or their secretions.

However, the World Health Organization has warned H5N1 could kill millions 
around the globe if it combined with a human influenza virus to create a new 
highly contagious strain transmissible among humans.

This situation could be exacerbated if pigs are found to carry H5N1, as 
experts say they are an ideal "mixing vessel" in which viruses swap genes, 
become more lethal or contagious and then leap to humans.

In Japan, which is also fighting a second outbreak of bird flu in its 
southwest, local government officials urged people not to abandon or release 
pet chickens in fear they were infected.

"There have been several cases of abandoned bantams and chickens found on 
the roadside as their owners apparently thought they would be dangerous," 
said Toshihide Hida, a food safety official at Oita.

Japan on Tuesday confirmed its second outbreak, just days before it planned 
to declare itself free of the disease after going 28 days from the disposal 
of the infected birds in the first outbreak without reporting a new case.

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