NEW AND VIEWS -CYPRUS: The news media are all over this. They state with confidence that feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a coronavirus, has killed 300,000 stray end domestic cats on Cyprus.
Vasiliki Mani, 38, a member of several animal welfare organisations, is demanding a swift solution. In January, she spent 3,600 euros (just over £3,000) to treat two stray cats with FIP.
‘I have spent all my savings,’ she said. ‘If FIP continues to spread, Cyprus will become the island of dead cats’. No doubt there is an epidemic of sorts but please read on.
300,000 deaths is impossible
I say with some confidence that the figure of 300,000 is IMPOSSIBLE. I’ll explain what I mean. Before I do so it has also been reported by the agriculture ministry in the southern part of the island state that 107 cats have contracted FIP. A massively lower figure.
The total cat population of Cyprus is said to be 1 million. FYI, the human population of Cyprus is 1.2 million. So, there are about 1 million stray and domestic cats on Cyprus.
I will quote a veterinary book on the disease known as FIP:
Fewer than 1% of all exposed cats will develop the secondary fatal disease known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
So, if it is true that 300,000 cats have died on Cyprus of FIP they represent 1% of all exposed cats on that island. That means the number of exposed cats must be 100×300,000 which makes 30 million. The figure of 100 comes from dividing 100 by 1. As stated, the cat population of Cyprus is 1/30th of that. The maths do not add up in any shape or form.
Therefore, we have to argue with some confidence that the number of 300,000 is highly inflated. It is false. We don’t know the source as far as I know. The news media is simply stating it.
What the news media appear to have missed is the crucial point that I make above, namely that fewer than 1% of all exposed cats develop the fatal version of FIP.
In fact, the disease is spread with some difficulty because it requires close and continuous contact with infected secretions. And 75% of cats exposed experience no apparent infection. Of those that do show symptoms it is a mild respiratory infection. Cats that recover from the mild infection can become asymptomatic carriers and therefore they can spread the disease.
It’s been estimated that in the general cat population 30-40% of all cats are positive for antibodies to the disease i.e. have been exposed to it. And obviously on an island like Cyprus where there are many cats in close contact with each other there is a greater possibility of the disease spreading.
Wet and Dry
There are two fatal forms of FIP namely wet and dry. It doesn’t matter which form the cat develops because it is invariably fatal. They always die to restate that. The wet form is worse with cats often dying within two months.
Prevention is to ensure that the environment where the cats live is less stressful because stress exacerbates the possibility of developing the disease. And the dried virus can survive for weeks in the environment.
Although, critically, the virus can easily be killed by household bleach solution diluted with water at 1:32.
As mentioned, the disease is also called feline enteric coronavirus (FeCV).
Update Friday, July 14, 2023: I feel I need to update this page because The Times has quite a big article on this story today. The disease is called “feline coronavirus”. That’s because FIP is a coronavirus disease. Veterinarians on the island have reported “an alarming increase”. And it surprises me that the head of Cat Paws Cyprus, Dinos Ayiomamitis, who is the vice-president of Cyprus Voice for Animals does not know the epidemiology of FIP which as stated is only deadly in less than 1% of cats who contract the disease. He said the virus had killed 300,000 cats on the island since January, as mentioned. I say that that is mathematically impossible.
And Prof Danielle Gunn-Moore, a specialist in feline medicine at the University of Edinburgh told The Daily Telegraph that the size of the outbreak had “never been seen in living or reported history”. She appears to believe the very large number of cat deaths. I would hope that she checks the statistics. I also hope that she reads this article. If I’m incorrect and she can comment and prove to me that I am wrong.
Perhaps the root cause of the miscalculation of dead cats is because most of the cats on the island are strays. They presumably had guessed the number of about 1 million and they don’t know the true death rate. Somebody has speculated and speculation has become fact in the news media.
They mention two drugs that are used to treat Covid-19 in humans: Remdesivir which is expensive at between £2500 and £6000 for a cat weighing between 3 kg and 4 kg. And this drug is not been proven to be effective. In fact, there is no cure for full-blown FIP to the best of my knowledge. So, if somebody buys this drug and gives it to their cat in the hope that it will cure them, they are taking a very big risk with their personal finances. Another drug is also being tried. It is called molnupiravir and it’s much cheaper at about £170 per animal. The government has ruled that human drugs cannot be imported for veterinary care.
A vaccine is available for FIP in the USA, Canada and Europe. It contains a temperature-sensitive modified-live mutant strain of coronavirus for intranasal administration. It is not licensed for kittens younger than 16 weeks of age because it’s not been proved to be effective for cats under this age. It was introduced “specifically to avoid induction of high serum antibody levels as these may promote antibody -dependent enhancement of infectivity”. Further research on the topic of a vaccine for FIP tells me that there is one but it’s effectiveness is dubious i.e. it has not been proven.
Ironically, Cyprus is well known in the cat community as being the place where the earliest known skeleton of a domestic cat was unearthed next to their human caregiver. They dated the skeleton to about 9500 years ago.
Some more on FIP
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