We want to make sure Philadelphians are up-to-date on animal health topics that relate to them and their pets’ well-being.  Please read the following information from our Medical Director, Dr. Hillary Herendeen, regarding the recent bird flu cases detected in cats at New York Animal Care Center.  There is no immediate cause for concern at this time; we will keep you updated as more information becomes available to us.

Bird Flu in NY ACC Cats; What This Means for ACCT Philly

Over the past few weeks, over 100 cats at New York Animal Care and Control facilities have tested positive for Influenza A, H7N2 (Bird Flu) – a virus like the one that causes annual “flu season” in people. The clinical signs in cats are identical to all other respiratory viruses, up to and including possible pneumonia. We cannot tell if a cat may have this virus by looking at them, only by testing.

Fortunately, only one of the sick NY cats was unable to recover, and in most cats the disease is mild, and may have no clinical signs at all. Also, fortunately, none of the dogs tested at NY ACC have been positive, and this virus does not appear to infect dogs, though ferrets and birds are at risk of infection, especially poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys).

There are no confirmed human cases at this time, though in past scenarios (1 case in 2002 in VA, 1 case in 2003 in NY) there have been human infections detected, both people recovered fully.

The NY shelter staff and city and state health workers are working with PA Department of Agriculture (PA DA) staff to track all contacts with these cats, and they believe no direct line of exposure has occurred from New York to  ACCT Philly.  ACCT Philly is waiting to hear from PA DA State Veterinarians if they have any specific recommendations for our high intake shelter, in relation to testing and monitoring for this virus in our shelter population

However, ACCT Philly likely shares rescue and foster connections with the NYC metropolitan area, so we are closely monitoring the situation. To be safe, we are following our standard protocols to prevent the spread of this and other viruses:

  • Wearing and changing gloves between handling healthy animals, identifying and isolation sick animals ASAP, and wearing and changing PPE (gloves, gown, face mask) between handling sick animals.
  • Minimizing direct contact with sick or unvaccinated, newly arrived animals to the shelter, and follow directions about what species of animals to handle
  • Washing hands before eating or using the bathroom and frequently with soap and water. This has been proven to reduce a human’s chance of catching flu viruses, just like seasonal flu.

If you have reason to believe that a recently adopted cat from ACCT Philly may be part of the group exposed to the virus in New York, please contact us at hillary@acctphilly.org. Concerned citizens should speak with their regular veterinarian regarding testing pets or to follow the PA DA posted guidelines as information becomes available.

For further information, please check out the following sources:

Thank you and please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.