South Korea detects H5N1 bird flu in cats at two shelters

Animal News : South Korea detects H5N1 bird flu in cats at two shelters

South Korean authorities have detected the H5N1 strain of bird flu in cats at two animal shelters in Seoul. 

A cat at an animal shelter in Gwanak-gu died after showing respiratory symptoms, the Korean Herald reported on Monday; test results confirmed the cat was infected with the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu strain.

A week ago, South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) confirmed a bird flu outbreak at another shelter in Seoul. Authorities confirmed two cats died from bird flu, and added that 38 cats who also died at the shelter were being tested.  

Though the H5N1 strain of bird flu has mostly spread among farm and wild birds, outbreaks have recently been reported globally in mammals such as humans, cats, mink, and otters. 

“The avian influenza epidemic has reached unprecedented magnitude, killing millions of birds, threatening to wipe out endangered species, and now cats are dying from the virus across different continents,” Wendla Beyer, policy coordinator at animal welfare organization Four Paws, said.

Beyer linked the rise of the highly pathogenic bird flu virus to the intensification of the animal farm sector, arguing that intensive farming has accelerated the circulation and mutation of the virus. 

By the end of 2022, sixty-seven countries had reported H5N1 bird flu outbreaks, resulting in the killing of 131 million farm and wild birds, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

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