New York City Quarantines Cats to Stop Rare Bird Flu Outbreak

Posted on January 13, 2017

New York City has quarantined hundreds of cats in an effort to stop an outbreak of H7N2 virus. The outbreak begin in October 2016 with a Bronx shelter cat named Alfred. Alred is Patient Zero in the bird flu outbreak. Aflred and one other cat have died. Most cats recover from the virus. When they do they can leave the makeshift quarantine shelter.

The New York Post reports that that cats were taken from shelters all over the city and placed in a facility in Long Island City, Queens. The warehouse was adapted to hold hundreds of cats by the Animal Care Centers of New York City and the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. It has two quarantine zones including area dubbed the "hot zone." Cats in need of critical care are kept on the second floor. The ASPCA and Maddie's Fund are paying for the treatment of the cats.

Workers wear hazmat suits while in the quarantine zones. A New York Times story says the virus is considered "slightly transmissible to humans" and generally causes only mild illness in humans according to the CDC. However, there are always concerns when an influenza starts spreading in a previously unseen manner. The Times says this is "by far the biggest influenza outbreak ever observed in cats."

Aleisha Swartz from the University of Wisconsin veterinary school, told the Times, "Any time influenza viruses start to behave in an unusual way, there’s a concern about what might happen. There's this virus that popped up, and if we didn't respond, it could have become widespread in cats all over the place."

386 of the cats have tested positive so far. The early indications are that the quarantine move has contained the virus. Hopefully, the aggressive control effort will mark the end of H7N2. The scientists do not know how Alfred became infected.

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