A case of an indoor 13-year-old house cat in Iowa who has contracted the deadly H1N1 flu while living with two flu-sick owners has fuelled concerns if the illness can spread from humans to animals.
The Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed the latest H1N1 animal case, renewing interest on the topic of humans as the primary carriers of the illness.
"We're seeing reverse zoonosis, with the virus jumping from people to animals," Discovery News quoted Alfonso Torres as saying.
But the former chief veterinary officer of the United States who is now associate dean for public policy at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine added: "In theory, cats could infect humans, but there is no evidence for that yet."
Though the reason behind why ferrets and cats may be more at risk to H1N1 flu is yet to be determined, Torres explained that "viruses need receptors" to allow infection of an individual.
Torres said: "The human H1N1 vaccine may or may not work in cats. There are some 60 million cats and only the one reported case, so the risk of other cats becoming infected appears to be low at this point."
Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, further said the cat H1N1 case "provides a good reminder that viruses can pass from humans to animals."