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Brussels, 1 March 2006

Statement of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) has been informed by Germany on the finding of a cat infected with the “Asian strain” of the Avian Influenza virus H5N1 (hereby called H5N1) in the island of Ruegen, where a high number of infected wild birds had been found in the last weeks. The finding of H5N1 in the cat in question has probably occurred due to its exposure to infected wild birds.

The SCOFCAH has congratulated Germany for the high level of surveillance for the disease in birds as well as other animals, which enabled this unusual case in a cat to be swiftly identified.

Other cases of Avian Influenza caused by the H5N1 virus have been described in cats and other felines in the last years in Asia. Other carnivores such as civet cats are also shown to be susceptible to H5N1.

However, current knowledge indicates the no H5N1 infection has ever occurred in humans due to animals other than domestic poultry. Current knowledge suggests that the disease in carnivores such as cats is a “cul de sac” of the infection that has not lead to an increase in the risk posed by this virus for animal or public health.

No information is currently available to either confirm or exclude the possibility of H5N1 spreading to other carnivores, such as dogs.

Nevertheless, in the light of the current knowledge and disease situation, the SCOFCAH deems appropriate to issue the following precautionary recommendations:

In areas where H5N1 has been confirmed in wild birds:

  • sick or dead cats and dogs that may have had contacts with infected birds or their carcasses should undergo veterinary inspection or post-mortem examination. When felt necessary by the veterinarian and in accordance with the instructions given by the veterinary authorities, further testing should be carried out;
  • contacts between domestic carnivores, particularly cats, and wild birds should be prevented, i.e. cats should be kept indoors and dogs should be kept on a leash or otherwise restrained, and kept under control by the owner;
  • where stray cats or dogs are found dead they should not be touched and the veterinary authorities should be informed, so that post-mortem examination and further testing can be performed, as

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