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The Cat Died

The possible spread of pandemic bird flu (or H5N1 and its variants) has been discussed in the past. There are many questions, with probably the most important one being whether or not (and possibly when) the H5N1 would make a jump to the broad human population. Now, in the South Korean city of Gimje, about 250 km south of Seoul, there is a reported incident in which a cat has died after being infected with a virulent form of the H5N1 virus.

According to health officials, this is the first mammal in the South Korea to have contracted the H5N1 virus, and the first report of a cat having the disease since one occurred in Thailand in 1996. The reassurances are not so reassuring, however.

”…there was little risk to humans as there has never been a known transmission of the virus from a cat to other mammals. “It is quite rare for a cat to be infected by the avian flu virus,” said Cho Hyun-Ho, a deputy director of the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service.

This is by no means intended to sound an alarm. According to some estimates, “only” 240 people have actually died worldwide from the H5N1 virus.

Scientists fear the virus will eventually mutate into a form that is much more easily transmissible between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

Referencing the article, BioResearch: The Risk/Reward Ratio, you can begin to understand the importance of careful diligence in studying diseases in animals and the possible vectoring of an animal-borne disease to the human population. As objectively as possible, it is important that animal diseases that could pass to humans be studied. No one knows just how H5N1 will (or even leaving some doubt, “if”) run to the human population and create the havoc of a pandemic. Staying ahead of the curve is the only logical way.

Here is something to be remembered. During the 2003 outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is China, civet cats, mammals related to the mongoose and a distant relative of feline cats, were suspected as one of the paths of the jump to humans. In Southwestern U.S., however, there is a continuing fear of plague carrying rats (see Yersinia Pestis. There, the feral cat population is credited in some ways with controlling the spread of that disease by killing the rats. Mother Nature does influence an awful lot of what happens. In fact, in some ways, Mother Nature, through natural events like hurricanes or earthquakes, or through the spread of diseases, represents a significant threat to us.