Two days ago, in Media Reports Of Unusual Cat Deaths In Poland, we saw reports of numerous recent cat deaths in Warsaw, Poland from an unknown cause. Those reports have continued, and reportedly expanded outside of Warsaw, over the past couple of days.
While there has been speculation that avian flu might be behind these deaths, the government - until about an hour ago - was saying there was not laboratory evidence to support that conclusion.
While Poland's GIW (Chief Veterinary) website is having some issues (possibly due to high traffic), I was able to lift the following statement off their site, where they indicate preliminary testing has found influenza (subtype unknown) in several of the affected felines.
Further testing is underway. I'll have a brief postscript after the break.
With reference to media reports on cat diseases in several Polish cities, which aroused concern among veterinarians and animal owners, the Chief Veterinary Officer declares that:
He is closely following developments. Constant contact is maintained with Voivodeship Veterinary Officers in order to monitor and analyze the situation.
Currently, the Veterinary Inspection is at the stage of collecting as much information as possible that can be confirmed by scientific methods . In-depth studies are being carried out on samples taken from animals that have contracted a disease of unknown etiology . Based on the preliminary results of laboratory tests (samples from the Tri-City area), carried out at the National Veterinary Institute in Puławy, the cause of illness is the influenza virus. We are currently waiting for the results of new studies that are constantly being conducted . Only after doing so can we draw further conclusions.
In the event of obtaining new data, GLW will take appropriate actions in accordance with the principles adopted in law. Any new guidelines as well as announcements in the case will be regularly published on the official website ( https://www.wetgiw.gov.pl/main/komunikaty ), in order to provide you with current information .
Practicing veterinarians who run medical facilities for small animals have the necessary knowledge and experience in diagnosing and treating diseases. In the event of any alarming situations regarding the health of your animals, the Veterinary Inspection recommends contacting a veterinarian.
Given the circumstances, avian H5 would be at the top our suspect list. Poland continues to report cases in wild birds, and cats could easily be exposed.
But there are other possibilities.
Six years ago in New York City we saw an `epidemic' of H7N2 run through cats housed at animal shelters (see J. Virology: Virulence Of A Novel H7N2 Virus Isolated From Cats In NYC - Dec 2016), infecting several veterinarians.
Assuming this is avian H5, the next question will be how it is spreading. If these are `one-off' exposures, or caused by a common food source, that would be less concerning. If the virus is spreading from cat-to-cat (unlikely, but possible), that would be of considerable more interest.