In view of the bird flu threat, several countries have banned the import of poultry and livestock from bird flu infected regions. At this juncture, when several countries are bothered about the spread of bird flu to domestic or wild birds, it is perhaps the right time to understand that bird flu can be transmitted through animals other than birds as well.
In order for a virus to jump from one species to another, it is necessary for both the organisms to have genetic compatibility. Human beings are diverse with respect to genetic constitution and the bird flu virus replicates deep within the human respiratory system.
Therefore, the possibility of the human to human bird fu viral transmission through activities such as sneezing or coughing is very limited. It can however be transmitted from birds to humans owing to the similarity between the human and bird flu receptors.
The first report of bird flu infection in a leopard was first reported in January 2004. Followed by this bird flu report, the deadly infection was soon found to spread to both wild and domestic forms of felines. This triggered bird flu experts to look more closely into the issue of bird flu transmission among animals.
From the extensive analysis, it was found that the avian influenza virus could be transmitted from live chicken to cats. This could in turn result in transmission of the infection to other healthy cats.
Alarmingly, U.S researchers reported the presence of bird flu in pigs from Vietnam in the Journal of Virology, August 2005 issue. Although pigs can acquire the H5N1 virus from birds, the probability of transmitting the same to other pigs and hence human beings is very low.
Additionally several recent reports have documented the presence of bird flu in other animals such as foxes, dogs, seals and weasels. The findings of these studies have several valuable implications regarding public health awareness about bird flu. The public should be aware that birds aren't the only source of transmitting the bird flu virus.
The researchers further recommend strict sanitary measures within households to restrict the spread of the bird flu virus. They have further urged owners of pets such as dogs and cats to prevent exposure to contaminated food. In addition, they have also warned about the possibility of avoiding animal bites.