Australia cat-plague: Deadly virus sparks RSPCA warning as infectious disease returns | World | News


Panleukopenia Virus, otherwise known as the “cat-plague”, has been confirmed in multiple cases in Melbourne.

The virus is highly contagious and difficult to control.

Faeces, urine, saliva or vomit of an infected cat along with contaminated surfaces are all sources of transmission.

RSPCA Australia and the Victorian branch of the Australian Veterinary Association said in a joint statement: “We are calling on all cat owners to ensure their pets are receiving all necessary vaccinations, including booster vaccinations for kittens.

“The warning comes amid multiple confirmed cases of the Panleukopenia Virus in stray kittens from the greater metropolitan area of Melbourne.

“The virus causes a severe and often fatal gastroenteritis. The virus is not contagious to humans or any other animals, however, it can be spread to other cats through the clothing and shoes of handlers or owners of infected animals.”

The disease was officially wiped out among the domestic cat population after outbreaks in the 60s and 70s.

But these efforts failed to completely eradicate it.

The virus still rages among the wider environment, killing feral cats and a sizeable amount of the unowned cat population.

The “plague” destroys the cells lining the small intestine resulting in vomiting diarrhoea, fever, lethargy, anorexia and sometimes sudden death.

Bone marrow is wiped due to a depletion of white blood cells, which also means infected cats are unable to fight the invasion by secondary bacteria that attack the gut wall.

Most cases are in unvaccinated young cats or kittens.

Even if cats survive, they are severely miserable for days afterwards.

Treatment requires intensive hospital treatment, intravenous fluids, medication, expensive anti-viral treatment, opioids for pain, antibiotics and occasionally blood or plasma transfusions.

In order to protect cats, vaccination is essential and highly effective.

It works more than 99 per cent of the time and is given by vets as part of an F3 or F4 vaccine at the same time as a routine health check.

The Australian Veterinary Association recommends all cats be vaccinated annually, but there is good evidence that for kittens older than 16 weeks, a single vaccination will provide immunity for several years.

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