H1N1 Swine Flu Can Infect Some Pets

Felines, Fido, ferrets, feathered friends, H1N1 flu, you, and pigs, too!

Medical Author: Charles Davis, MD, PhD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Many researchers and physicians believed it was bound to happen. And it did. Humans have begun infecting other species with "their" disease, the pandemic novel H1N1 influenza A swine flu. H1N1 infection of a domestic cat by its owner(s) has brought the concept of human-to-animal (pet) transfer of the flu to the news forefront. The infection, documented by laboratory identification of H1N1 from the feline, is the first documented case of human-to-cat flu. One of the major reasons this is news is because most people want to know two things:

    1. Can my cat (or other pet) transmit the flu (H1N1) to my family (or to anybody who contacts the pet)?

    2. If my family gets the flu (H1N1), are my pets (cats, dogs, birds, and others) going to get sick and die?

The answer to the first question is that, to date (Nov. 10, 2009), no documented instances of pet-to-human transfer of H1N1 have ever been published. However, that does not mean it cannot or will not ever happen. Because of the unique ability of influenza viruses to replicate in many animals, birds, and humans, it seems possible that a pet could transfer a flu virus to a human. The second answer is more complex; the current evidence is that some pets will likely get sick, and possibly a few may die.