Provincial veterinarian Dr Gilwood said the initial positive test results for bird flu in four PEI fox kits were worrying but not alarming.
“It shows that we have to be vigilant, I think, because this is a new and somewhat unexpected development,” Wood said.
Twenty-three birds on the island have tested positive, with 16 more pending.
Mammalian infections are uncommon, she said. Pigs are known to be able to catch it and transmit it to humans, but there is no evidence that this is possible for pets such as dogs or cats.
There were some cat cases in Germany, but that was during a more severe outbreak than PEI experienced, Wood said. Dogs have been found to have antibodies against the virus, but were not known to get sick.
“All the evidence seems to suggest that when these unusual mammals are infected, it stops there. They don’t have the ability to transmit it to another mammal,” Wood said.
That being said, Wood thinks it’s wise to take some precautions.
If the kits were confirmed to be infected with avian influenza, the most likely source was thought to be eating infected birds. Wood recommends keeping dogs on a leash so they don’t pick up any bird carcasses, as well as keeping house cats under control.
Barn cats should be separated from any poultry that appears to be sick.