UN New Centre on H5N1
I am always interested to look at how different newspapers will run the same story. If you look at some newspapers, they emphasised that 20% of the cats found around an infected area had H5N1 - but if you look at this article from the UN News Centre, you'll see the fact that 80% of the cats did NOT catch it was of more significance. More importantly, as an earlier scientist pointed out, these reports were never substantiated.
Note what the UN suggests - where H5N1 has been found in birds, cats should be separated from the birds and on commercial poultry premises, cats should be kept indoors. And of course, it advised against killing cats.
We know the knee jerk reaction during SARS where everyone started panicking about everything - taxis would not stop for doctors and nurses and cats of course were killed to improve hygiene. Let's hope that we'll keep a calmer head if the worst happens and we act rationally if H5N1 ever makes an appearance here (and in the meantime let's pray it doesn't).
As I was discussing with another volunteer, in a way cats are an easy scapegoat to make us feel as if we're doing something. Why? It is called avian flu for a reason - ie it comes from birds. It would be impossible (nor in any way am I suggesting we should) to kill all the birds because obviously they can fly and are more mobile. It would be impossible to stop bringing in meat (now the suspected reason why the UK has been hit by avian flu) because people are not going to stop eating their poultry, but we need to feel we are doing something. The worst part is that the cats may suffer because of it just as they did during SARS.