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article imageCalgary vet school confirms pet cat died of H1N1 virus

By Karen Graham     Feb 8, 2014 in Health
Vaccines for the H1N1 virus running rampant across North America this season has thus far proven to be effective against Swine flu. Canadian researchers released a report on Wednesday saying the HiN1 flu virus has changed little over the last 5 years.
The H1N1 flu virus in humans was named for a similar virus that commonly infects pigs. So it was quite surprising to researchers at the University of Calgary's veterinary facilities, when the H1N1 flu virus was discovered in one of two domestic cats brought in for a post-mortem.
The two pet felines were from the same Calgary household, and while the virus has been confirmed in one of the cats, it is presumed the other animal died from the same thing, although that has not yet been confirmed.
Dr. Alastair Cribb, Dean of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, said “This is the first case that we’re aware of in Canada involving H1n1 in cats.” Veterinarians in the Calgary area are being asked to pay special attention to animals, particularly cats, that are brought into their clinics in respiratory distress. Even though there is no vaccine for the virus in felines, most do recover from the flu.
As far as transmission of the virus, it is assumed the H1N1 virus was passed from humans to the felines. There is no evidence of feline to human transmission, although it cannot be ruled out, according to university researchers.
Many people may wonder if the H1N1 virus has become more deadly to felines, and if so, does this mean the virus has mutated. Actually, there are more than 144 different types of Influenza A, from H1N1 to H16N9. All of these types can be found in birds, horses, pigs, and of course, humans.
Viruses such as the Influenza A virus, will keep popping up, with most of them arising in the southeast and eastern parts of Asia because of close proximity between humans and livestock, and because the little virus devils are promiscuous. This means that when two virus cells invade the same cell, they can swap genetic components, a process called "reassortment."
How does this process help the viruses mutate? Let's look at the H1N1 virus. The H stands for a protein called hemagglutinin, and there are 16 different kinds. The N stands for neuraminidase, and there are nine different kinds.
This colorized transmission electron micrograph shows H1N1 influenza virus particles like hemaggluti...
This colorized transmission electron micrograph shows H1N1 influenza virus particles like hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Surface proteins on the virus particles are shown in black. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
U.S. National Institutes of Health
So it's easy to see how two viruses can swap genetic material, including the viruses own eight genes, as well as genetic material from avians, swine and human flu strains, mixing it all up and perchance, making a new strain. The virus being found in felines is not all that unusual, as it has appeared sporadically in ferrets and dogs in other countries.
More about H1n1, domestic cats, veterinary school, Transmission, Canada
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