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Holy Cat! First Case of Bird Flu Transmitted From Cat to Human Reported

Dec 29, 2016 05:55 AM EST

The first ever case of bird flu spread from cat to human has been recorded in New York.

On Thursday, New York City health department officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case.

According to their official statement, the infected person is a veterinarian who was involved in obtaining respiratory specimens from sick cats at the Manhattan shelter. Fortunately, the vet only experienced mild symptoms over a short period of time, and has since fully recovered.

The report also added that they have found no signs indicating that other health workers and those who adopted cats from the shelters have contracted the virus. However, they are still calling for caution.

"Our investigation confirms that the risk to human health from H7N2 is low, but we are urging New Yorkers who have adopted cats from a shelter or rescue group within the past three weeks to be alert for symptoms in their pets," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in a statement. "We are contacting people who may have been exposed and offering testing as appropriate."

Science Alert reported that based on the tests, the virus has infected at least 45 cats in the Manhattan animal shelter where the veterinarian contracted the virus. Furthermore, since last week, more than 100 cats have tested positive for the virus across all NYC shelters.

The cat that brought the virus to the Manhattan animal shelter has been identified, but it is not certain how the cat was able to get the virus. Because of the frail condition of the cat, the doctors had to put it down.
H7N2 is a subtype of influenza A virus, also known as avian or bird flu. CBS News noted that until the veterinarian's case, there have only been two previous documented cases of transmission of the H7N2 to humans in the United States, and neither was linked to cats or to other humans.

Health officials are continuing their investigation to make sure that no humans are further infected, while researchers will be studying how the strain adapted to its new hosts.

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