It has been demonstrated, both clinically and in natural settings, that dogs and cats are susceptible to H5N1. Different animals have actively shed virus to one degree or another; in the case of one lab experiment on dogs it was quite significant.
I raise Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, I call them my four legged children, when I'm not calling them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but whatever I am calling them, I love them dearly. I have studied the disease implications for them in regards to H5N1, and I have formulated a course of action, as well as stocked an emergency supply of their "stuff".
There are things we can do to protect our beloved pets from H5N1, it all starts with educating ourselves, and that I have certainly done. But today I found a very disturbing piece of information, although I will stress that the information has not been scientifically scrutinized, it is deeply concerning none the less. It doesn't have to do with PanFlu or H5N1, but another deadly disease….
Deadly bacterial infections have been on the rise in recent years as some microbes are gaining resistance to existing antibiotics. These superbugs, as researchers call them, once were seen as a problem mostly in hospitals, but lately the resistant infections also are cropping up more and more outside hospitals.
Now, scientists have begun to suspect that pets could be at least partly to blame.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be fatal in humans and has proven particularly virulent. The superbug can live on the skin or nose of a person or pet and not produce symptoms, researchers say. But when it enters a wound, any wound, it can create serious infection that often resists multiple types of antibiotics.
In 1974, MRSA infections accounted for 2 percent of the total number of staphylococcal infections. By 2004, that figure was 63 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"We used to think of these antibiotic-resistant infections as a healthcare issue that appeared in post-operative or long-term patients," said Stephanie Kottler, a veterinarian at the University of Missouri-Columbia Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. "However, we have been seeing more of these infections that have been acquired throughout the general population, or 'community acquired' infections. It's important to know what environmental factors might be encouraging or prolonging these infections."
While evidence that points to pets helping to infect humans is so far slim, Kottler and University of Missouri-Columbia colleagues Leah Cohn and John Middleton announced today they will study the issue, which is hinted at in some previous research.
"There are multiple case reports of humans with infection with MRSA when the household pet was also found to have MRSA," Cohn told LiveScience. "Sometimes, the human infection could not be successfully eradicated until the animal was also treated."
Studies have been relatively small and somewhat inconclusive, however.
For instance, a small 2005 British study of a vet facility, detailed in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, "suggests that dogs can act as reservoirs of MRSA, which can pose a public health risk to owners and veterinary staff."
A 2003 report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that two dog owners who suffered persistent MRSA infections relapsed every time they returned home from the hospital. The dog was found to carry the same strain of MSRA, but the researchers could not determine whether the dog initially acquired the infection from the humans or the other way around.
I had a young cousin die from MRSA, it was so rapid that the doctors didn't even have a chance to test for it. While I am not considering getting rid of "my children" I will be even more careful of their interactions with other dogs, something that I am already very careful after the "Dog Flu" surfaced.
As bad as an H5N1 infection is, it is more treatable than some of the MRSA infections.