Birds hit cats

Published: Friday 31 March 2006

German scientists have warned cat owners to stop snuggling with their pets following the death of a pet cat from the h5 n1 avian flu virus in Ruegen island on February 27.

Most of Germany's 120 cases of h5 n1-infected wild birds were found on the island. Scientists at Germany's national animal diseases laboratory, which had confirmed the infection, feel that the cat may have contracted the virus from the infected birds. Soon after, Austria also reported few cases of bird flu in cats.

The virus has been affecting other feline species, too. In February 2004, the virus was detected in a clouded leopard that died at a zoo near Bangkok. In March, a white tiger had also died of h5 n1 infection.

In October 2004, captive tigers fed on fresh chicken carcasses began dying in large numbers at a zoo in Thailand. Altogether 147 tigers out of 441 died of infection or were euthanised.

Meanwhile, the European Union (eu) has approved plans by France and the Netherlands to vaccinate millions of poultry against bird flu. The decision came as health officials in Austria said two chickens had the deadly h5n1 bird flu virus -- the first time it has appeared among poultry in the eu.

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