Feline coronavirus


14 August 2023
With national newspapers reporting on feline coronavirus cases in Cyprus, Nathalie Dowgray, Head of ISFM (International Society of Feline Medicine), which is the veterinary arm for International Cat Care, answers the key questions for concerned cat owners.

How rare are outbreaks of feline coronavirus?

Fortunately, they are relatively rare. Feline coronavirus is very common, but only a small number of cats infected by this virus go on to develop Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). FIP is caused by variants of feline coronavirus, which are created through individual mutations. These types of mutations, the load of virus, and individual cat immune system factors determine if the cat gets FIP or not. Sadly, we do see occasional situations where the local strain of feline coronavirus circulating combined with a lot of cats who may be at ‘risk’ due to their age, health status or other factors leads to an outbreak of disease. Generally, FIP is reported at around 1% of the feline population, but in these outbreak type situations 40-50% prevalence of FIP has been reported.

How do you treat it? 

Historically this was a fatal disease, but newer antiviral drugs have become available in the past few years and are showing very good results.  Is there any risk that it could evolve to infect humans?  This is very unlikely, there are no reports of feline coronavirus being a zoonotic disease. How concerning is this situation? Very concerning for the veterinarians of Cyprus, their feline patients and their cat owners. While we now have treatments available, they are expensive and the veterinary community in Cyprus have been working hard to get legal products available into their country.

Did you know? Currently, it is a challenge in many countries to get the right treatment drugs.

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