Fears for British pets after coronavirus that kills cats spreads
Fears for British pets after deadly coronavirus strain that killed 8,000 cats in Cyprus spreads to the UK
- A cat brought into the UK from Cyprus was found to be infected with the virus
Fears for British pets are growing after a deadly coronavirus strain which killed 8,000 cats in Cyprus has spread to the UK.
Scientists said a feline brought to Britain from the Mediterranean island was found to be infected with the virus.
The cat, which developed symptoms after testing positive, is undergoing further tests and treatment after being isolated by its owner.
The strain is a new hybrid strain of an existing feline coronavirus and a canine one, called F-CoV-23.
Although this strain isn’t linked to covid-19, scientists found the same ‘genetic fingerprint’ in this cat as the 91 infected cats in Cyprus.
Veterinarian Nicolas Ioannides administers a Molnupiravir pill to treat a cat suffering from feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a strain of coronavirus, at his clinic in Nicosia
A cat brought into the UK from the island was found to be infected with the virus
The cat which tested positive and developed symptoms is undergoing tests and treatment after being isolated by its owner
Although this strain isn’t linked to covid-19, scientists found the same ‘genetic fingerprint’ in this cat as the 91 infected cats on the Mediterranean island
Domesticated cats have been quarantined at clinics in a bid to slow down the spread in Cyprus
The virus is estimated to have killed at least 8,000 cats in the first half of this year on the island, but could be higher than 300,000.
Human-targeted covid treatments on cats were authorised in August to try and get a handle on the outbreak in felines on the island – which is known as the ‘island of cats’ as it is an early site of domestication for the animal.
Many of the cats on the eastern Mediterranean island are strays, and it’s not uncommon for them to wander into people’s gardens, sit in restaurants and loiter near garbage bins.
Domesticated cats have been quarantined at clinics in a bid to slow down the spread of the virus, while volunteers and vets attempt to treat animals showing symptoms.
A study of the British cat, published on open access website bioRxiv, warned there is a risk of the feline covid outbreak spreading.
The disease caused by coronavirus, feline infection peritonitis (FIP), is common globally but was never a worry before this new strain.
Coronavirus lay dormant in cats and around one in ten of felines with it would develop FIP and develop symptoms including fever, lethargy and inflammation – which is almost always fatal without treatment.
A study of the British cat warned there is a risk of the feline covid outbreak spreading
Many of the cats on the eastern Mediterranean island are strays, and it’s not uncommon for them to wander into people’s gardens, sit in restaurants and loiter near garbage bins
The virus is estimated to have killed at least 8,000 cats in the first half of this year on the island, but could be higher than 300,000
But the combination of canine coronavirus with the feline strain has led the virus to change and become more infectious.
The author of the study, Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, told The Telegraph: ‘This new virus appears to spread readily and no longer relies on changes or mutations in the host.
READ MORE – Feline coronavirus kills 300,000 cats in Cyprus – and many more could die if the strain reaches Britain
‘Our evidence suggests the virus may spread directly from cat to cat by faecal contamination, just like the cat and dog coronaviruses it originated from.
‘For example, if a cat uses the same litter tray, or outdoor area, as an infected cat and then licks its paws.’
There is a drug which can treat FIP early on but it can be expensive, and human-targeted covid drugs cannot legally be used to treat cats in the UK.
There is no evidence that the new virus can infect humans or dogs, and there is no proof of a similar outbreak in British cats, so owners aren’t required to keep their cats indoors on account of the virus, according to experts on the study.
Dinos Agiomamitis, Head of Cats PAWS Cyprus and vice-president of Cyprus Voice for Animals estimates a third of the cats living to the south of Cyprus have died as a result of the virus, with symptoms including fever, abdominal swelling, weakness and aggressiveness.
He added part of the challenge around documenting cases was that, with so many strays on the cat-loving island, diagnosing and tallying up every infection is almost impossible.
Two treatment options are being considered – a drug called remdesivir, used for Covid-19 and closely related to GS-441524, and molnupiravir, a antiviral drug used to treat the illness in humans.
Remdesivir is approved for use in animals in the UK and to be imported to Cyprus but the cost – between £2,500 and £6,000 for a cat weighing between 3kg and 4kg, is making the government consider a second option.
It is estimated that molnupiravir would cost around £170 per animal, but an application by the vets association to authorise its use for cats was rejected in May, because the government has argued that human drugs cannot be imported into the country for veterinary care.
Source: Read Full Article