Cats in Lazio are not a threat to humans in the current avian flu outbreak, regional authorities have stressed. The reassurance was issued after a cat was found to have died of the H5N1 virus on the German island of Ruegen on 27 March. Rome is home to an estimated 300,000 cats, of which 180,000 are domestic pets and 120,000 live in colonies, according to the news agency ANSA. There is currently no evidence to connect any of the 174 cases of human infection in south east Asia and Turkey with contact with cats.

In Italy, 19 birds with the disease have so far been found in Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Umbria. No cases have yet been diagnosed in Lazio, despite the recent discovery of a dead duck in the lake at Villa Pamphilij in Rome. In areas where cases of bird flu have been confirmed, the advice is to keep cats indoors and dogs on leads.