Achoo! Have you gotten your flu shot yet this season?
If not, move that up in your to-do list immediately. Not only is it important to get your yearly flu shot to protect yourself from this ever-evolving virus, protecting yourself also means protecting your pet.
Pets and the Flu
If you catch the flu, not only could you pass it on to other humans (and have a really horrible day or two of illness), you could pass the virus on to your pet. Researchers at Iowa State University and Oregon State University have identified cases of cats, dogs, and ferrets contracting the flu from humans in 2011 and 2012, with some serious cases resulting in the animal's death.
The researchers know that they probably don't even have the whole picture yet. "It's reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more," says Christiane Löhr, Associate Professor at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.
You're probably already aware that flu viruses in animals can be passed to humans, such as the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, that reached pandemic levels in 2009. Since the flu virus is an especially adaptable virus, that road can go both ways.
Not only could your pets become sick, but it's possible that the virus could mutate into a strain that could spread between animals, or back to humans.
What You Can Do
The safest bet is to protect yourself and your family members by getting your flu shots. If you experience flu-like symptoms or come down with the flu, be as careful about minimizing contact with your pets as you are with other humans. If you think your pet may have been exposed already, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Flu season isn't fun for anyone, so be sure to protect your four-legged family members too, by getting the flu shot for yourself.