Monday, January 15, 2007

Cat Got Your Virus?


# 309


Roughly an hour after posting my last blog about looking at vectors other than chickens for the H5N1 virus, I ran across this report, released today.


Timing, I guess, is everything.


Indonesia scientist says 1/5th of stray cats carry bird flu virus


Monday January 15, 3:54 PM


(Kyodo) _ About 100 of 500 stray cats surveyed in Indonesia were carrying the H5N1 bird flu virus, a local scientist said Monday.


C.A. Nidom, who first reported that bird flu had entered Indonesia in 2003 but was ignored by the government, told Kyodo News the finding was based on his research funded by the Ministry of National Education and conducted on Java Island and in Lampung Province of Sumatra Island from September to December last year.


"I will bring the results of my research to the Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo next month for further tests," he said by telephone from Saudi Arabia.


"I'm worried that the virus will be more easily transmitted to humans because the body temperature of mammals like cats is similar to that of humans," he added.


He took blood samples from cats living around wet markets that sell chickens and hospitals designated for bird flu patients in the East Java provincial capital Surabaya, the Central Java provincial capital Semarang, West Java's Bandung, Lampung's Bandarlampung, and Jakarta and its suburb Tangerang.


We’ve heard, of course, stories of infected cats in Indonesia before. Anecdotal reports for the most part. Infected birds are reportedly called ‘plop’ by some villagers, for the sound they make when they fall out of trees. Infected cats are called `Arrgh plop’, because they reportedly scream when they fall out of trees. At least, that’s the popular story.


A 20% infection rate would be remarkable if true, and would be serious signal that cats could be an important part of the chain of infection, whether it be to humans or to birds.


The article goes on to state that C.A. Nidom claims to have presented his data to the Health Ministry, but they have not been published or followed up on. The director of the Health Ministry, I Nyoman Kandun, denies he has seen this report.


And so it goes.


Another data point in the battle against a potential pandemic. One that probably deserves quick attention.


Whether it will get it or not, remains to be seen.