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Conservation IssuesCats And Avian Flu
Hannah Suthers

Cats And Avian Flu
Hannah Suthers

The time of year has come again when cats should be kept indoors for the safety of nesting and fledging birds. Please keep them in at night also, as a cat can destroy the entire nest of the parent and babies. This is something proactive that you can do to protect birds.

The American Bird Conservancy Cats Indoors! Campaign writes, and I quote:

"The deadly avian flu, H5N1 subtype in Asia, Europe and Africa has been in the news a lot lately, especially since it was discovered in cats in Austria, Germany, Thailand and Indonesia. Cats can become infected with H5N1 by eating infected birds, but it is still very rare. They can die from the virus and can transmit it to other cats. The virus was found in cat sputum and also in faeces of experimentally infected cats. Scientists are urging cat owners living in areas where avian flu has been found in poultry or wild birds to keep their cats indoors. Although cats have not transmitted the deadly virus to humans, some cat owners panicked and surrendered their cats to shelters or abandoned them. Before the deadly strain of avian flu hits North America, now is a really good time to step up efforts to get cat control ordinances passed and to conduct education campaigns in your community.

The fact sheet, "How to Make an Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat," and the flyer, "Healthier, Safer: Indoors" available at www.abcbirds.org/cats are useful tools in your efforts. For more information on avian flu and ABC’s position statement, visit: www.abcbirds.org/avian_flu_revised_ps.htm."

The Featherbed Lane Banding and Research Station will be participating in an international study to determine the baseline of what Influenza type A viruses (of which some 144 are currently identified) Neotropical migrant landbirds normally carry, and to identify transmission paths. This information would further the goal of developing custom vaccines against Influenza A. Starting with the 2006 breeding season and for the next four years, we will be taking cloacal swabs of birds of selected species as they migrate through, nest locally, and migrate through again in the fall. Then samples from the same species will be taken from birds captured at Monitero de Sobrevivencia Invernal (monitoring winter survival) stations in Central and South America during the winter. Also by collecting feather samples from a subset of the species and individuals from which the viral samples were collected, genetic and stable isotope analyses can provide information on the connectivity between breeding and wintering populations of these species. This information will be critical for dealing with the spread of an infectious disease.

This is one of the most exciting projects of our times and may be essential for maintaining national and global human health. The project is spearheaded by Dr. Thomas B. Smith of the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, and field coordinated by The Institute for Bird Populations of Point Reyes, CA. As you know, our bird banding station cooperates, now in our 15th year, with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship project of the IBP.

Interested in recording data in the field? Contact me at 609-466-1871.

 

 

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Last revision: May 16, 2006 - 05:45 PM