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Cat euthanised after being infected with bird flu, a first in France

The animal lived near a poultry farm in Mauléon, Deux-Sèvres in the west of the country

A cat has been euthanised after the discovery of a case of bird flu. Picture for illustration purposes only. Pic: Leo Kostik / Shutterstock

A domestic cat was found to have been infected with bird flu, and ultimately euthanised after suffering severe neurological symptoms. It is the first case of its kind in France.

The animal, which lived in Mauléon, Deux-Sèvres in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, picked up the virus from a nearby poultry farm that raised ducks, a report from France’s health and food safety agency l’Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) states.

First of its kind in France 

This is the first time such a case has been observed in France although it has been known that potential transmission of the H5N1 virus - commonly known as bird flu or aviary flu – to a cat is possible since 2004. 

Previously, a dead cat on the German island of Rügen tested positive for bird flu after an outbreak of the disease in 2006.

Pets such as cats can facilitate the transfer of the virus to humans, and must be kept away from infected farms and from operations on farms concerning the euthanasia of infected poultry. Mutated forms of the virus can be spread back to poultry, which can then affect humans.

The observation was recorded at the end of December, leading Anses to conduct testing in the area. A few days before the virus was discovered in the cat, 8,000 birds at a nearby farm were slaughtered due to a bird flu outbreak.

No cause for concern

However, the research undertaken shows that there has been no outbreak of the mutated virus, or any case of cross-species transmission outside of the sole observed case in the cat. 

Reverse testing of poultry at the nearby farm was conducted to look for the presence of the mutated virus, with the subsequent results showing “that this mutation was not present, at this stage, in the ducks from the farm that caused the contamination”. 

Anses recommends that professionals who may frequently come into contact with cases of avian, and swine flu, should take precautions and vaccinate against seasonal flu, to reduce the risk of “the emergence of a new influenza virus that is potentially highly contagious for humans”. 

Bird flu is a recurring issue in France, contributing to the shortage of eggs that France is currently facing.

More than 21 million birds were slaughtered in France from mid-November 2021 to mid-May 2022 due to bird flu outbreaks.

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