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Bird Flu Found in Weasel-like Animal
German officials said on Thursday that a laboratory discovered the H5N1 virus in a stone marten. The sick and dying marten was found on the north German island of Ruegen, the location for the first bird flu outbreak this year. The animal comes from the same area where three cats and dozens of wild birds were found carrying the infection. Till Backhaus, the regional Minister for Agriculture said "the presence of an H5N1 infection in a second mammalian species is not surprising." Martens, animals similar to weasels, eat in the winter the same things as cats, including dead birds. German officials have asked that cats be kept indoors and dogs on leashes in the areas where the virus's presence has been reported. Dick Thompson, World Health Organization official, declared that is too soon to say if these infections can be considered a threat to humans. "Further investigation is needed to determine whether evidence of the infection in a new mammalian species has any significant risk for humans," he added. Tigers and snow leopards in a zoo in Thailand also died because of avian flu after being fed in 2003 and 2004 dead chickens. 3 house cats were infected in Bangkok in February 2004. The World Health Organization stated that there is no concern of the virus being transmitted by cats to humans, but cat-to-cat transmission has not been ruled out.

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