Pet owners across the European Union must take safety precautions to stop their animals catching bird flu – that is the latest recommendation from the bloc’s veterinary experts. They have warned that people living in areas affected by the deadly H5N1 virus must keep dogs on leads and cats indoors to stop them coming into contact with infected birds. The guidelines follow the death of a cat from the virus in Germany over the weekend.
The EU is also asking for dead stray cats and dogs found in affected zones to be reported to authorities. Possibly allaying many people’s fears, health experts say the discovery of bird flu in a household pet does not increase the risk of transmission to humans.
The cat in Germany was found on the island of Rügen where most of the country’sH5N1 cases have been detected. It is the first mammal in the EU to die of the disease. Germany has already implemented measures for pets similar to those announced by the EU and three-kilometre cordons have been set up cutting off areas where diseased birds have been found.
Many experts blame the rapid spread of avian flu on migratory birds. The H5N1 virus has been detected in about 20 new countries over the past month alone.