In the wake of yesterday’s revelation that a cat in Iowa had swine flu, U.S. News & World Reports rushes to assure us, “Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe.” The experts they summon, however, hedge their bets alarmingly. “This really is not a practical issue at this point,” says a top vet. “Is that to say it’s not possible? No.” Another expert says human flu viruses were first discovered in ferrets (who have also caught swine flu — make sure to feed yours lots of echinacea this winter).
The pets remain at risk, but U.S. News emphasizes that they can’t make you sick, so it’s all good. For example, the kind of flu dogs get, canine influenza virus, can’t be spread to humans. “Our concern is transmission from human-to-human,” says expert #3, “but we do need to protect pigs [and turkeys].” Presumably this is just for their own good in their days before slaughter, as we are assured “you absolutely cannot get it from what you eat.”
It would appear that animals have more to fear from us than we from them, which is a refreshing change of pace…
Still, Christian author Aramis Thorn is unmoved, even enraged. “People, humans, are dying from H1N1. People are starving,” he says. “Does any of that keep our public media from leading with a story about a cat that gets the swine flu? Not a bit. How much money was spent to product this story?” He suggests that rather than spend “$300 and $1000 yearly to feed a pet” we should force them to forage for small prey. For city people, this is not an option, except if mice are particularly plentiful in your home; if you send them out to hunt, they may come back with swine flu, gonorrhea, or Lord knows what else.
The Times assures us that “animals infected with H1N1 generally exhibit mild respiratory symptoms, or none at all.” They suffer in relative silence, then, and will recover. But if they realize they got sick from you, there may be hard feelings — especially from cats. Then they’re pee in your shoes. Image via Fifa the Cat.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2009