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Animals Contract H1N1 Virus, US Officials Confirm

November 5, 2009

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday that a commercial swine herd in Indiana tested positive for the swine flu, which is the first time the virus has been detected in US pigs.

The USDA said there were four tissue samples that had traces of the virus. They added that the pigs and the people watching over the animals are in good health again.

In October, tests established that some show pigs at the Minnesota State Fair came down with the swine flu, or the H1N1 virus.

USDA officials have emphasized frequently that occurrences of pigs with swine flu are rare and do not pose a danger to pork product consumers.

However, word of a pig herd with the H1N1 virus is a blow to the pork industry, which has been plagued with poor prices due to swine flu concerns.

However, Agriculture specialists have long anticipated that the swine flu would finally find its way to domestic pigs. A hog vaccine is being created but is not yet on the market. The H1N1 strain has made an appearance in hog herds in other countries, like Canada, Australia, Argentina, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Norway.

Pigs are not the only animal that has been infected with the virus. A 13-year-old cat has a confirmed case of the swine flu, the first confirmed case of the virus present in a feline.

The cat was cared for last week at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ames and is healthy again. The virus also has appeared in an Oregon and a Nebraska ferret, but they did not survive.

“We’ve known certainly it’s possible this could happen,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Tom Skinner said to Yahoo News. “This may be the first instance where we have documentation that transmission occurred involving cats or dogs.”

The cat’s veterinarian, Dr. Brett Sponseller, said the feline contracted the virus from its owners. The case was established at the Iowa State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Other flu strains can cross species, but Sponseller warned against panicking over whether pets could contract the virus from humans.

“It’s well documented in influenza in general, but this is the first highly suspected case of H1N1 going from humans into a cat,” he said.

Dr. Ann Garvey, Iowa’s state health veterinarian, said scientists do not know how cats or other pets could contract the virus from humans.

“Because we haven’t seen that many cases, it’s difficult to give a blanket assessment on how sick it can make an animal,” she said.

Officials also emphasized that there is no proof that the flu can be sent from pets to their owners.

“But it’s so early in the game we don’t know how it’s going to behave. But that doesn’t appear to be the concern. There’s no sense of them passing it on to people,” said Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, to Yahoo News.

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