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Pets can be tested for swine flu, too, says Oklahoma veterinarians

BY SUSAN SIMPSON Modified: December 8, 2009 at 12:58 am •  Published: December 8, 2009
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STILLWATER — The animal disease diagnostic lab at Oklahoma State University is offering swine flu testing of house pets.

Only one sample has been submitted, a cat that tested negative for H1N1 and recovered from illness.

Veterinarians from Oklahoma and surrounding states can send nasal or cheek swabs for testing to the lab, which is approved by the National Animal Laboratory System. The test will cost pet owners about $80.

Lab director and veterinary doctor Bill Johnson said the lab can test samples from dogs, cats, ferrets and birds.

Several cats and ferrets have tested positive for H1N1 in the United States, and China reported two dogs were infected with the virus.

"It’s a pretty rare event,” Johnson said.

Still, pet owners can take precautions. Family members who are sick with influenza should stay away from pets if possible, and wash their hands before petting them or handling their food.

Symptoms of influenza in pets include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Johnson said there is no H1N1 vaccine for pets.


OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES PUSH

FOR swine flu vaccines THROUGH ads

WASHINGTON — Pushing Americans to receive swine flu vaccinations, the Obama administration on Monday released a new slate of television and radio ads to counter an illness that already has infected millions. The public service announcements target children and their parents, young adults and those in high-risk groups, such as people with asthma. The ads in English and Spanish come as a shortage of the vaccine is easing, with another 10 million doses expected to become available this week. The messages also are a shift from earlier efforts to teach Americans how to avoid spreading the illness, known also as H1N1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 22 million people have been infected with swine flu and 3,900 have died. Government tallies also include 98,000 swine flu-related hospitalizations. The vaccine is becoming plentiful enough that some state and local governments are allowing everyone to get it, not just those in priority groups. There are 73 million doses available, roughly twice as many as there were a month ago, and another 10 million doses are expected this week, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s director, told reporters Friday. Initially, limited supplies caused the CDC to advise state and local health officials to reserve doses for those at highest risk for severe complications from swine flu or those who take care of them. Officials at the CDC said last week that it appears that a fall wave of swine flu infections has peaked. But flu is hard to predict, and health officials say they are worried of the possibility of a third wave this winter.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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