Diseases / List of Viral Diseases / Disease description:

Influenza in Ferrets

INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLINICAL CHARACTERISTICS & PATHOLOGY

INVESTIGATION & DIAGNOSIS

TREATMENT & CONTROL

SUSCEPTIBILITY & TRANSMISSION

ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY

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General and References

Disease Summary

A viral respiratory infection.
Ferrets Generally a mild respiratory infection, but can be serious in neonates.

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

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Disease Type

Viral Infection

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

Human influenza virus type A, also type B (milder disease). Clinical signs also occur in ferrets infected with swine influenza viruses and some avian influenza viruses (e.g. the HPAI H5N1). (J213.8.w3)
  • Influenza H1 N1, H2N2 and H3 N2 viruses, also (milder) Influenza B viruses. (B627.15.w15)
  • Note: Ferrets can also be infected by seal and equine influenza viruses, but no clinical disease results. (B627.15.w15)
  • Usually the virus remains in the nasal epithelium only; sometimes it moves down the respiratory tract and causes pneumonia. (B627.15.w15)

Infective "Taxa"

  • --

Non-infective agents

--

Physical agents

-- Indirect / Secondary

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References

Disease Author

Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Click image for main Reference Section

Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

B627.15.w15, B631.26.w26
J15.24.w6, J34.17.w4, J213.8.w3
P120.2007.w1

Other References

Code and Title List

 

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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General  

Clinical Characteristics

 
Ferrets Upper respiratory tract and general signs, usually mild in adults and generally resolving in four to five days, unless prolonged by secondary bacterial infection. (B627.15.w15, B631.26.w26, J34.17.w4, J213.8.w3)
  • General: Fever, anorexia and lethargy/malaise. (B627.15.w15, B631.26.w26, J15.24.w6, J213.8.w3)
    • Fever about 41 C. (J34.17.w4)
    • Fever generally lasts 48 - 72 hours. (B631.26.w26)
    • Experimentally there is a sharp, biphasic febrile response. (B627.15.w15)
    • Biphasic fever, 40-41 C. (J15.24.w6)
  • Respiratory: Serous nasal discharge and sneezing, cough. (B627.15.w15, J15.24.w6, J213.8.w3)
    • The nasal discharge may become mucopurulent [due to secondary bacterial infection]. (J34.17.w4)
  • Other signs may include photosensitivity, conjunctivitis, epiphora and unilateral otitis. (B627.15.w15, B631.26.w26, J213.8.w3)
  • In very young kits (1 - 2 days old) infection may spread to the lower respiratory tract with bronchiolitis, pneumonia and aspiration of material from the upper respiratory tract. (J213.8.w3)
  • Sometimes a limited enteritis. (J213.8.w3)
  • With HPAI H5N1, neurological signs including ataxia, hind limb paresis and torticollis have occurred. (J213.8.w3)
  • Clinical pathology: 
  • Elevated neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio may be present. In ferrets infected with HPAI H5N1, a transient lymphopaenia (loss of 60 - 65% of peripheral blood leucocytes) was recorded at three days post infection. 
  • Usually normal biochemistry, but in some ferrets, increases in creatinine, BUM, potassium, albumin and alanine aminotransferase have been noted. (J213.8.w3)

Incubation

--
Ferrets
  • 48 hours from infection to clinical signs. (J213.8.w3)

Mortality / Morbidity

--
Ferrets
  • Usually only a mild infection, but can be fatal in young kits. (J15.24.w6, J213.8.w3)
    • Can be fatal in kits (B631.26.w26); can be fatal in 1 - 2-day-old kits. (B627.15.w15)

Pathology

--
Ferrets
  • Bronchiolitis, pneumonia, sometimes enteritis. (J213.8.w3)
  • Respiratory tract: catarrhal inflammation with nasal mucosal congestion, oedema, sometimes necrosis. (J15.24.w6)

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Human Health Considerations

Influenza viruses are transmissible from ferrets to humans and from humans to ferrets. (B627.15.w15, J213.8.w3, P120.2007.w1)

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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

Transmission

--

Susceptibility

--

Ferrets
Transmission
  • Aerosol transmission. (B631.26.w26)
  • Virus shedding starts at the onset of pyrexia and continues for 3 - 4 days. (J213.8.w3)
  • Note: Ferrets are susceptible to human influenza viruses and signs in ferrets often follow infection in their owner. (B627.15.w15)
  • The main source of infection for ferrets is humans. (B631.26.w26)
  • Ferret-to-ferret transmission occurs via droplet. (J15.24.w6)
Susceptibility
  • Ferrets are very susceptible to human strains of influenza virus. (B631.26.w26)
  • Young kits are more likely to develop severe disease. (J213.8.w3)
  • Ferrets which had been infected were shown to be resistant to reinfection with the same strain on challenge five weeks later. (B627.15.w15)

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Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

  • In ferrets. (B627.15.w15, J213.8.w3)
  • The main cause of respiratory disease in ferrets. (B631.26.w26)

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

  • --

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

  • --

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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Environment/Geography

General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • --

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

  • --

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

  • --

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

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Ferrets
  • Presumptive diagnosis on the basis of clinical signs, history of exposure to infected individuals (ferrets or humans) and short course of illness (recovery within 7 - 10 days). (J213.8.w3) recovery within 4 - 5 days (B627.15.w15, B631.26.w26)
  • Infection can be confirmed by virus isolation or by detection of seroconversion using haemagglutinin-inhibition; this is rarely done. (B627.15.w15, J213.8.w3)
  • If a rapid diagnosis is needed, an ELISA can be used for antibody detection. (J213.8.w3)
Related Techniques
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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

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Ferrets
  • Canine Distemper must be considered as a differential in ferrets with URT signs, but signs of CDV infection usually are more severe and longer-lasting. (B627.15.w15, J213.8.w3)

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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

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Ferrets
  • Zanamivir, 12.5 mg/kg as a single dose intranasally was shown to prevent influenza, and did not promote rapid antiviral resistance. (J213.8.w3)
  • Amantadine hydrochloride, 6 mg/kg orally every 12 hours has been shown to be effective, but promotes rapid development of antiviral resistance. (J213.8.w3)
    • 6 mg/kg as an aerosol every 12 hours has been used experimentally. (B631.21.w21)
Related Techniques
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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

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Ferrets
  • Supportive treatment. (J15.24.w6)
  • Hospitalisation is not usually needed. (J213.8.w3)
    • Hospitalisation is required only if the ferret shows persistent fever, dehydration and food refusal. (B631.26.w26)
  • Ferrets should be rested and offered tempting, highly palatable foods such as chicken or beef baby foods or Hills Science Diet A/D. (J213.8.w3)
  • If necessary, assisted feeding and provision of water by syringe can be performed. (B631.26.w26, J213.8.w3)
  • Fluid therapy can be given if necessary. (J34.17.w4)
  • Symptomatic treatment of clinical signs as required.
    • For a persistent cough, paediatric non-alcohol-containing cough suppressants have been used, at the paediatric does on a per weight basis. (J213.8.w3)
    • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, 2 - 4 mg/kg orally every 8 - 12 hours (J213.8.w3) or chlorpheniramine (B631.26.w26) may be used to reduce nasal congestion, or phenylephrine may be given intranasally. (J34.17.w4, J213.8.w3)
  • Consider use of antibiotics to control secondary respiratory bacterial infections. (J15.24.w6, J34.17.w4, J213.8.w3)
    • Neonates should be given prophylactic antibiotics to prevent rapidly-progressive secondary bacterial infections. (J213.8.w3)
  • Note: NSAIDs should not be used, because the fever appears to be important in restricting the infection. (J213.8.w3)
Related Techniques
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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Ferrets
  • Vaccination is not recommended, since this is generally a mild disease in ferrets (J34.17.w4, J213.8.w3), protection provided by vaccination is limited. (J15.24.w6)
Prophylactic Treatment

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Ferrets --
Related Techniques
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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection --

Ferrets

  • Owners should be advised to limit contact with their ferrets if they have a respiratory infection, and to thoroughly wash their hands before caring for them. (J213.8.w3)
  • Note: Veterinary personnel with an upper respiratory tract infection should wear a mask and gloves when treating ferrets, to reduce the risk of accidentally exposing the ferrets to influenza virus. (B631.26.w26, J213.8.w3)
Population Control Measures --
Ferrets --
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
Ferrets
  • Avoid exposure of ferrets to infected ferrets or humans. (J213.8.w3)
  • Keep infected ferrets quarantined, remembering that transmission occurs by aerosol. (B631.26.w26)
Related Techniques
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