Indonesian cats spread bird flu

The U.S. Embassy warned its citizens to avoid contact with stray cats in Indonesia, saying there had been confirmed reports the animals in the country were able to carry the deadly bird flu virus.

The unusual warning came at the end of a posting on the mission's Web site on Wednesday about the risk of the H5N1 virus in general in Indonesia, where the virus is endemic in chickens and has killed more humans than in other nation.

"There have been confirmed reports that wild and stray cats have been shown to carry H5N1. While there have been no documented cases of feline-to-human transmission of H5N1, it is important to avoid contact with wild and stray cats," it said.

The World Heath Organization was not immediately available to comment on the warning, the AP reports.

Last year South Korea slaughtered wild cats when trying to prevent the spread of a bird flu outbreak in poultry. At the time, the U.N.'s food and agriculture organization said the move was highly unusual and "not science based."

The embassy said that cats which "reside mainly inside a residence" were not seen to be at risk of catching H5N1.