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Thai Veterinarian: Cat Found Infected with Bird Flu

Test results proved that several cats in Bangkok had died of the H5N1 virus that caused the avian influenza, a Thai veterinarian said at a press conference held on Friday morning.

Five cats were sent to the Kasetsart University's animal hospital with flu symptoms earlier this month and four of them that died later were tested positive for H5N1 virus, said Thaneerat Sntivatra, director of the hospital and dean of the university's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

The university's lab had tested sections of lung and spleen tissues from the dead animals and found out virus in it, Thaneerat told reporters.

The scientists then compared the virus with that of the H5N1 virus and concluded they were the same type.

The lab then cultivated the virus and injected it to a newly-hatched chicken, which died soon, he explained the whole process.

This was the first case that H5N1 virus had been detected on a cat, said Thaneerat, calling the discovery a "milestone" one.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and the Thai government were urging people not to panic over the news and providing feasible suggestion to stay away from the disease.

WHO official Somchai Thirapakorn based in Bangkok earlier said the disease wouldn't necessarily be transmitted between mammals and human even the virus had been detected on cat.

So far, the virus detected on cat remained exactly the same as those found out on chicken, the Public Health Ministry's Disease Control Department director, Charal Trivuthipong, told reporters.

Scientists were most concerned about the mutation of the virus, which would make the disease more lethal and hard to cure.

The Thai Public Health Ministry also advised people raising cat to avoid cats' slobber, nasal mucus and excreta and wash their hands after touching cats.

The five cats sent to the animal hospital were from the same family living at Bangkok's suburb.

According to the state-run Thai News Agency, one of the family's 10 cats had eaten a dead chicken at a nearby chicken farm affected by bird flu and disappeared later.

The other nine cats then all showed flu symptoms and four died without going hospital. There's still one cat receiving treatment in hospital.

On Monday, the Thai government confirmed that a cloud leopard in a zoo had died of the virus causing bird flu. This was the first case that mammal had been infected with the disease.

The government also said a white tiger in the zoo affected earlier by the disease had recovered.

(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2004)

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