H5N1 - Bird flu - infects cats in Thailand
After having killed 22 people in Thailand and Vietnam, the virus H5N1, one of the most virulent strains of Bird Flu, has now made the jump to cats, killing two household pets and a leopard in Bangkok zoo, according to reports from specialists at the Faculty of Veterinary science at Kasetsart University, Bangkok.
These are the first cases on H5N1 in felines, according to the experts. The pet cats both belonged to the same household in Bangkok, Thailand. The owner declared that one of them had been in close contact with an infected chicken.
Bird flu has already infected humans and pigs in previous epidemics, proving that it can make the jump between species. Health experts fear that if the virus can mutate and latch itself onto the human flu virus, it would cause the most deadly pandemic of the last hundred years, being a virus against which the world population has no natural immunity.
Previous pandemics prove how deadly a new virus transmitted between humans can be. Spanish Flu in 1918/1919 killed around 50 million people worldwide.
There was a long period of respite before the second great flu pandemic, Asian flu, in 1957 and eleven years later, Hong Kong flu, both of which claimed one million victims worldwide.
The scientific community seems to agree that it is not a case of if, but when, the next flu pandemic appears. Dr. Alan Hay, Director of the World Influenza Centre in London, declared recently to the BBC that "It is inevitable. We don't know when it will arrive, but we are waiting".