Sunday, July 30, 2023

South Korea: CDC/MAFRA Statement On 3rd H5N1 Positive Cat In Seoul Animal Shelter


Last Tuesday we learned of two H5N1 positive cats at an animal shelter in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, along with media reports indicating that cats had been dying at that shelter for several weeks.  

Late yesterday South Korea's MAFRA and their CDC released a joint statement on a 3rd H5N1 positive cat, this time from a shelter in Gwanak-gu, Seoul (about 5 miles from the 1st).

The translated text follows:

(Joint with related ministries) Emergency quarantine and human infection prevention measures following the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in felines (Sat, July 29)

Post Date 2023-07-29
Last modified 2023-07-29
Department in charge Emerging Infectious Disease Response Division
Contact 043-719-9130

Emergency quarantine and preventive measures for human infection following the occurrence of feline highly pathogenic avian influenza pseudo-patients

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Minister Jeong Hwang-geun, hereinafter the Ministry of Agriculture and Food) announced that a highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5 type) pseudo-patient was confirmed in a cat in a cat shelter in Gwanak-gu, Seoul.

The cat in that place visited a nearby animal hospital due to anorexia and respiratory symptoms, died during treatment, and the head of the veterinary hospital reported it to the Agriculture, Forestry and Livestock Quarantine Headquarters. (H5 type) It was confirmed as a pseudo-patient.

* Currently, additional detailed tests are underway, and it is expected that it will take about 2 to 3 days to determine whether or not it is highly pathogenic.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs promptly shared and disseminated the situation to related organizations such as the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local governments, and organizations as soon as confirmed cases were confirmed, and implemented emergency quarantine measures such as washing and disinfection of the affected area and access control through the competent local government (Seoul Metropolitan City).

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Chief Young-mi Ji), along with local governments, is promptly implementing measures to prevent human infection of avian influenza, such as contact investigations on cats.

The symptoms of the veterinary hospital workers and protection place officials have been confirmed, and there are no symptoms among the exposed persons confirmed so far.

As in the last case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in cats in Yongsan-gu, those exposed to the high-risk group will be intensively monitored for 10 days, the maximum incubation period from the date of last contact.

* For reference, as of July 29, there is one person subject to management and no symptoms related to the confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza in cats in Yongsan-gu.

          (Continue . . . )

We've been following a similar outbreak in cats in Poland for nearly six weeks, although updates from Polish authorities remain disappointingly infrequent (see here, here, here, and here). Over the past year we've also seen sporadic reports of feline H5N1 infections from France, Italy, the United States (see here & here), and Canada

We've known for nearly 20 years that cats are susceptible to avian flu (see A Brief History Of Avian Influenza In Cats), often acquired from eating infected meat. 

But in 2016 we saw a highly transmissible (among cats) strain of H7N2 sweep through several New York City animal shelters, infecting hundreds of cats and even a couple of veterinarians (see J Infect Dis: Serological Evidence Of H7N2 Infection Among Animal Shelter Workers, NYC 2016).

While cat-to-cat transmission of avian flu appears to be rare, and cat-to-human transmission even more so, the CDC has the following advice for cat owners during this time of heightened H5N1 activity in wild birds and the outdoor environment. 

Bird flu infections among domestic animals are rare. However, if your pet is showing signs of illness suggesting bird flu virus infection and has been exposed to infected (sick or dead) wild birds/poultry or has eaten raw food containing poultry products, you should immediately contact your pet’s veterinarian or state animal health official.
Additionally, monitor your own health and the health of other household members with close contact with your pet for signs of infection, including fever, cough, difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, conjunctivitis (eye tearing, redness, irritation, or discharge from eye), runny or stuffy nose, or diarrhea. It unlikely that pet owners would get sick with bird flu through direct contact with their infected pet, but it is possible.

The risk to human health from H5N1 bird flu infections in cats is thought to be low. Current H5N1 outbreaks in poultry and birds (with occasional spillovers into mammals and people) continues to be mostly an animal health issue. However, people should avoid direct and close contact with sick or dead wild birds, poultry, and sick or dead wild animals.

CDC has information about precautions to take with wild birds and guidance for pet owners and people who may have direct contact with infected animals. More information about avian influenza is available on the CDC website.