You may remember reports from Cyprus a little while ago about 300,000 cats on that island being killed by a new strain of feline coronavirus called FCoV-23. The numbers were exaggerated but they think about 8000 have died although there are about 1 million strain domestic cats on Cyprus, more than the entire human population.
My research indicates that this feline coronavirus can develop into Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) which is a well-known, often fatal disease in domestic and stray cats. It’s a serious disease and for this reason a senior scientist has called for an urgent ban on cats being brought into the UK from Cyprus. The ban should include the importation of cats from south-east Europe generally as the virus is apparently present in Greece and Lebanon as well.
One cat in the UK has been tested positive with this disease which was imported from Cyprus and there are three more suspected infections. All three cats have links with Cyprus. They are being investigated.
The disease is not, as I understand it, a zoonosis meaning it can’t jump from animal to human. The senior scientist urging the ban is Dr. Christine Tait-Burkard of the University of Edinburgh. She led a team overseeing confirmation of the first case in the UK.
She said that, “There are several weekly flights that are importing cats [from Cyprus] to the UK. So, the risk of spreading this virus is very high. It is not the moment of panic but we know from Covid that we need to react at this stage and not three months down the line.”
The objective is to preclude the need for potentially serious steps in the future such as keeping cats indoors full-time.
The disease can be treated with an antiviral drug but they can cost several thousand pounds. The owner of the infected cat brought into the UK has agreed to treat their cat with this drug.
Tait-Burkard has communicated with the Animal and Plant Health Agency and plans to meet up with the UK government’s chief veterinary officer.
At the moment there is no requirement for quarantine in these cases. Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is watching and waiting, gathering evidence and information on the risk.
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