Causes of Avian Influenza
While cats and dogs have been known to become infected with avian influenza, the exact mode of the infection is unclear. It is assumed that these animals become infected with the virus when they ate poultry or wild birds which were infected with the avian influenza. It is unknown if cats and dogs can then spread the virus to one another, but for now this type of transmission is considered to be unlikely.
In areas of Asia, Africa, and Europe, cats that have been exposed to poultry flocks that were infected with avian influenza tested positive for the virus. It is assumed that the cats were killing and eating some of the infected poultry, though it is still in question whether all of the cats became infected in this way. Many of the cats that tested positive for the virus were already in declining health from poor diet and other types of respiratory viruses, and it is not known if underlying medical problems increases their chances of becoming infected with the virus.
Only in rare cases have dogs been known to become infected with avian influenza, and most of the studies of dogs which tested positive for avian influenza were performed in dogs which were infected with the virus for laboratory studies. So it is not known if dogs are really susceptible to this virus in nature. While there have been a handful of reports which indicate dogs may have become infected from the virus from eating birds which carried the virus, there is still much that remains unknown about how dogs may become infected with avian influenza.
Preventing Bird Flu
To avoid the spread of bird flu, you should be aware when traveling out of the country. Avoid visiting areas where you may come into contact with live birds, such as poultry farms, live bird markets or any other area where birds congregate. This is most important in countries experiencing an outbreak of high pathogenic avian influenza. If you are in contact with live birds infected with the AI virus, the virus may persist on clothing, footwear and in hair. Take appropriate personal hygiene measures including thorough hand washing and showering, wash clothing, and clean and disinfect footwear.
When returning home, ensure all birds and poultry products you wish to bring into the country are eligible for entry and declare all animal products upon arrival. If you visit an area where you have been in contact with live birds while abroad and/or you plan to go onto a live bird premises shortly after your return, make sure that any clothing and footwear you wear are free from soil and manure before entering the country. Also, take appropriate personal hygiene measures including thorough hand washing and showering, wash clothing, and clean and disinfect footwear after arrival.