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Dear Christopher Cat

Oliver, the most cuddly of my cats, snuggled with me in bed when I was home with the flu. Now that I’m better, he seems to have caught my virus. Is that possible?

Christopher Responds

Absolutely. That’s why I stay away from my humans when they’re sick.

My brother Dougie wasn’t so smart. He slept with Mom and cuddled at every opportunity, even when she was sick -– and one of those times, he caught her cold.

He learned the hard way that humans and cats can share some viruses and bacteria.

The concern these days is influenza, particularly the H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu, influenza A and the North American influenza.

Tests in November confirmed that three cats, one each in Iowa, Utah and Oregon, were infected with the virus. Two of the cats recovered; sadly, the Oregon cat died.

In addition, several ferrets with clinical signs of influenza tested positive for the H1N1 virus; one died. To date, no dogs have tested positive.**

In all cases, the evidence suggests that the people infected their animals. The cats and ferrets developed respiratory infections after their human family members were ill with the flu.

So when you're sick, be careful about how much you snuggle with your pets.

Update: Oliver recovered quickly.


**Note: On 12/21/09, tests confirmed that a 13-year-old dog in New York was infected with the H1N1 virus after his human guardian was sick with the H1N1 flu. With treatment, the dog (and his human) recovered.


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