Thai researcher says dog had H5N1 avian flu

Aug 31, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A dog in Thailand's central Suphan Buri province contracted avian influenza after eating infected ducks, according to a Thai researcher quoted in a newspaper.

Yong Pooworawan, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, disclosed the case yesterday at a university seminar. He said a researcher at Kasetsart University had discovered the case and that it would be described soon in an American medical journal, according to a report today in The Nation, a Thai daily newspaper. Yong did not elaborate on the findings.

If confirmed, the Thai report apparently would be the first known case of H5N1 infection in a dog. The medical literature contains reports of the H5N1 virus in domestic cats, leopards, tigers, and civets, but none involving dogs.

After the seminar, Rattathan Pattanarangsan, a veterinarian from Mahidol University, urged the Thai public not to panic over the possibility of avian flu in dogs. "Please do not abandon your dogs in pubic places. You can prevent them from getting bird flu," he told The Nation. "Make sure you bury dead or ill chickens deep in the ground." He added that it would be very difficult for dogs to transmit the avian flu virus to humans.

Confirmation of the report would likely raise fresh concerns about the virus in pets. In March, Germany confirmed that a cat on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen died of H5N1 infection. That case represented the first known report of H5N1 in a mammal in Europe.

Following that report, European Union veterinarians in Brussels urged people living in areas experiencing avian flu outbreaks to keep their cats indoors and their dogs leashed. A German humane society said publicity about the cat case prompted hundreds of German cat owners to abandon their pets at shelters.

The role of cats in the spread of avian flu has been controversial. Medical and veterinary experts published a commentary in the April 5 issue of Nature suggesting there was growing evidence that cats may play a role in spreading the H5N1 virus. They contended that H5N1-infected cats were common in Indonesia, Thailand, and Iraq. They also wrote that other carnivores such as dogs, foxes, members of the weasel family, and seals may be susceptible to the H5N1 virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO), however, has downplayed the role of cats in the spread of avian flu. In a February statement the WHO said there was no evidence that cats were a reservoir for the H5N1 virus and that so far no human cases had been linked to infected cats.

See also:

Apr 5, 2006 CIDRAP News article "Experts urge including cats in avian flu precautions"

WHO report on avian flu in cats

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