A second ferret in the US has been diagnosed with H1N1 influenza. The latest case involves a fatal infection in a ferret from Nebraska that was presumably infected by its owner. Three other ferrets in the household were also sick, and it’s fair to assume that they had H1N1as well.
It’s important to keep things in perspective. We have two confirmed pet cases among thousands and thousands of human cases. Thousands of pets have presumably been exposed to owners infected with H1N1, with few apparent problems. (You can never rule out additional cases completely, because pets tend to get ignored in outbreak investigations, but there’s no indication that this is a major problem.)
This is yet another good reminder of the potential for diseases to move between species in households. If you are sick with a potential infectious disease, you should restrict contact with household members – all household members: human and animal. Ferrets are likely the greatest risk when it comes to H1N1, followed by pigs and pet birds. Dogs and cats are presumably low risk, but we can’t say there’s absolutely no risk.
If you might have H1N1, reduce close contact with your pets. Don’t hide from them, but avoid close face-to-face contact and coughing around them. Wash your hands regularly. More details about household infection control precautions are available from the CDC. Take the same precautions around pets as you would around people. If your pet subsequently gets sick, make sure your veterinarian knows about the possible H1N1 exposure.
Image source: www.ferretfriends.org