The pandemic H1N1 influenza virus continues to circulate, although the hype has certainly died down. During the original 2009 pandemic, there were a few reports of infection of domestic animals, particularly ferrets and cats. This wasn’t particularly surprising since we know these species are susceptible to human influenza viruses, and with so many people infected and so many people owning pets, a large number of pets were presumably exposed, and a few got sick.
Three animals from the San Diego Zoo also developed H1N1 influenza in the fall of 2009: a badger, a Bornean binturong (also known as a bearcat, see photo) and a ferret. The badger and binturong had severe pneumonia and had to be euthanized, but the ferret survived. Presumably, these animals were infected by an infected person, probably a caretaker. This report just provides more evidence of the ability of this virus to infect a diverse range of species, and the need to consider both the potential role of various animal species in human influenza transmission and the potential for animal disease from contact with infected people.
Photo: A binturong (Arctictis binturong) at Overloon, NL (photo credit: Tassilo Rau, source: http://en.wikipedia.org)