Hantaviruses are enzootic world-wide in wild and laboratory rodent populations, and are often zoonotic. Strains of Hantavirus differ in their virulence in man. The hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in North America and haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in Asia both cause high mortality. However, most European strains usually induce only subclinical or mild disease.
Hantavirus antibody in cats was first detected in laboratory-housed cats and dogs in Belgium, and virus has been isolated from a cat in China. Recent surveys in Britain and Austria found antibody reactive to Hantovirus in up to 10% of cats from a variety of disease and environmental backgrounds, but a similar survey in The Netherlands did not detect any antibody.
The clinical significance of Hantavirus infection in cats is not known, and there is little evidence to suggest that cats are a source of human infection in the West; the overall prevalence of antibody in man in the UK is only 0.5% with higher prevalences found in those whose work or recreation exposes them to rodents.
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