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L.A. County officials confirm first H1N1 case in a local pet

December 31, 2009 | 10:59 am

An 8-year-old female domestic shorthair cat whose owner had a confirmed case of swine flu has also been diagnosed with the disease, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced.

The cat, who was taken to the Pico Boulevard Pet Hospital with symptoms including nasal discharge, sneezing and an occasional cough, "had spent a considerable amount of time on the owner's lap," according to a statement released Tuesday by the department. Its owner had apparently been sick for several days before the cat developed symptoms. The treating veterinarian submitted swab samples to Idexx Laboratories. Those samples tested positive for the H1N1 virus as well as a separate infection, Mycoplasma felis, and the H1N1 diagnosis was later confirmed by laboratory staff at UC Davis. The American Veterinary Medical Assn. reports that the cat is recovering.

This is the first confirmed instance of H1N1 in a local pet, although several other cats have been infected with the illness in other parts of the U.S. Earlier this month, the nation's first confirmed case of swine flu in a dog was reported in New York, and several ferrets have also been infected.  

The AVMA has stressed that reports of swine flu in pets are "not cause for panic and extreme measures," but it encourages pet owners to wash their hands regularly and consult their veterinarian should their pet show signs of illness. Symptoms of swine flu in pets, beyond the nasal discharge, sneezing and coughing present in the recently infected cat, may include lethargy, loss of appetite, changes in breathing and fever.

-- Lindsay Barnett

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