Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease that is caused by a group of influenza viruses. It usually infects water fowl or poultry such as chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Sometimes influenza viruses change (mutate), which allows them to infect mammals such as pigs, dogs or people.
H7N2 is a type of avian influenza virus.
At this time, only the cats in NYC animal shelters have tested positive for H7N2.
Signs include sneezing, coughing, runny nose and runny or red eyes.
Influenza viruses can spread if a cat has contact with another infected cat or with objects (such as kitty litter or food bowls) used by sick animals.
Currently, there is no influenza vaccine for cats.
There are no medicines available to treat influenza in cats. Veterinarians may use other medicines, such as pain relievers, antibiotics or intravenous fluids, to help the cat recover.
Illness is usually mild and most cats recover quickly.
If you adopted the cat from an ACC shelter between November 12 and December 15 and it has respiratory illness, call your veterinarian’s office for an appointment. Let them know when you make the appointment that your cat was at risk for H7N2 so that they can make arrangements to prevent exposure to other cats in the clinic.
If there are other cats living in the same house, separate the sick cat from the healthy ones. Keep it indoors, and do not let other animals use the sick cat’s food or water bowls, toys or litter box. Wash your hands often with soap and water after touching the cat, cleaning its litter box or crate, or coming into contact with its saliva, urine, feces or blood.
The risk of transmission of H7N2 from cats to humans is low. People who have flu-like symptoms are likely to have seasonal influenza or other respiratory viruses commonly seen in the winter.
The symptoms of seasonal influenza viruses and H7N2 are similar, and medications that treat seasonal influenza also treat infections due to the H7N2 virus. People with existing health conditions or weakened immune systems, and women who are pregnant are at a higher risk of complications from seasonal influenza, and this may also be true of H7N2.
Do not nuzzle or have close facial contact with cats if they are sick, or if you are pregnant or have any underlying conditions that affect your immune system (such as cancer, diabetes or chronic lung disease).
If you are well, you do not need to get tested. However, if you adopted a cat from an ACC shelter and you develop flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, shortness of breath or conjunctivitis (red eyes) within three weeks of adopting the cat, please contact your health provider. Make sure you tell your doctor that you have recently adopted a cat from an ACC shelter.
If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Health Department at 866-692-3641.
While the risk of a person getting avian influenza is low, seasonal influenza is already spreading in New York City and can lead to serious illness. Get vaccinated.