Pets being watched for human diseases

They play with our children, lounge on our kitchen floors and lick our faces.

Now, scientists are suggesting that pets might provide early signs that avian flu has hit America.

“Pets, since they are sharing the home, can be sentinels of disease. … And if you don’t see things early, they can get worse,” said Dr. Hugh Lewis, senior vice president of an Oregon-based veterinary chain called Banfield, The Pet Hospital.

Scientists from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., are working with Banfield — which has 500 offices, 13 of them in Kentucky and Indiana — to monitor for avian flu and other diseases that can be passed from animals to people. Although no cases of the serious strain of avian flu have been found in America so far, experts expect that migrating birds with the feared H5N1 strain may enter the United States this year — and public health departments in Louisville and elsewhere are preparing for a potential human outbreak

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