This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.
You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.
Hantaviruses can cause serious, fatal disease in humans and have been reported to occur in cats
Hantaviruses belong to a group of RNA viruses known as the Bunyaviridae. Their veterinary importance is that they are zoonotic and can cause a fatal haemorrhagic disease in humans. The virus is usually transmitted to humans from domestic or wild rodents (in which it can be endemic) by aerosol spread from excreta.
Clinical signs in humans include :
(# Caused by the Hantaan, Soeul and Puumala strains)
In one study conducted in the UK1 cats 9.6% of cats have were found to have been exposed to Hantaviruses and in cats with chronic disease 23% of cats had serological evidence of exposure. In Austria a similar study2 showed that over 5% of cats had been exposed. Cats do not show any clinical signs, and there is no direct evidence of transmission of Hantavirus from cats to humans, but in an epidemiological study into the human disease in Asia3 cat ownership was implicated as a possible factor in the occurrence of human disease.
The potential role of cat Hantavirus infections in the development of human disease is clearly there, but awareness about such a possibility is low. Most flu-like diseases are not accurately diagnosed by the medical profession. In addition, the veterinary profession are unlikely to screen for Hantaviruses as they do not cause clinical problems in their group of patients. Nevertheless there is a need for veterinarians and the medical profession to be vigilant about the possibility that disease in humans could be linked to animals in the home. Probably more screening should be performed - and co-ordination between the Human Health Authorities and the Veterinary Profession is needed.
1. "Hantavirus in some cat populations in Britain" Bennett M et al. Veterinary Record (1990) 127; 548-549.
2. "The domestic cat : a possible transmitter of viruses from rodents to man" N.Nowotny. The Lancet (1994) 343; 921
3. "Cats- source of protection or infection ? A case control study of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome" Xu ZY et al . American Journal of Epidemiology (1987) 126; 942-948.
Updated October 2013