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Virus not likely to affect household pets

West Nile virus is not likely to be much of a problem for dogs and cats or most traditional household pets.

According to Clell Bagley, Utah State University Extension veterinarian, neither is it a problem for pet birds, but other zoo and aviary birds could be at some risk.

The United States Centers for Disease Control indicates that dogs and cats can be carriers of West Nile virus (WNV), but cannot transmit the illness to humans or other animals, explained Bagley.

West Nile virus is transmitted by infectious mosquitoes. There is no documented evidence of person-to-person, animal-to-animal or animal-to-person transmission of West Nile virus.

Veterinarians and pet or livestock owners should take normal infection control precautions when caring for an animal suspected to have this or any viral infection.

Dogs and cats become infected by the virus the same way humans do - by the bite of infectious mosquitoes, pointed out Bagley.

The virus is located in the mosquito's salivary glands. During blood feeding, the virus is injected into the animal. The virus then multiplies and may cause illness.

Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on ill birds, which may circulate the virus in their blood for a few days.

It is possible that dogs and cats could become infected by eating dead infected animals such as birds, but the projection is as yet unproven.

"There is no reason to destroy an animal just because it has been infected with West Nile virus," concluded Bagley. "Full recovery from the infection is likely. Treatment would be supportive and consistent with standard veterinary practices for animals infected with a viral agent."

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