Feline virus outbreak in Sydney

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FCV-VSD Feline virus outbreak in SydneyTwo veterinary practices in Sydney have had suspected outbreaks of feline calicivirus-virulent systemic disease (FCV-VSD). A number of cats, suspected of having the virus, died between December 2015 and January 2016.

Vets should watch for the following signs and symptoms: oedema (limb and/or head), ear-tip necrosis, crusted nasal sores, purulent skin ulcers, oral ulceration, fever, dyspnoea and jaundice. These signs are known to have presented in strains of FCV-VSD found in overseas epizootic outbreaks.

Commonly FCV is known to present upper respiratory signs, transient lameness and oral ulcers, yet the severity of VSD is characterised by hepatocellular necrosis and severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome, in combination with vasculitis. Vets should keep a watchful eye on adult cats, whose symptoms are more likely to present severely than those of kittens.

FCV is highly contagious, and can survive unaided for up to a month. Transmission can occur after contact with unwashed surfaces, including bowls, clothing, bedding, shoes and even litter boxes. Vet’s should notify any owners with cats that present FCV-VSD symptoms to take careful precautions and wash all items that may have come into contact with affected felines.

Even vaccination against FCV may not be enough to protect cats from VSD. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recommended the following safety precautions: “Vets who see pyrexic, systemically unwell cats who may have the disease must keep them isolated from other cats, and employ effective barrier nursing, good hand hygiene and wash down surfaces to prevent spread to other cats. Effective disinfectants include sodium hypochlorite (1:32 dilution of a 5-6% solution) and potassium peroxymonosulfate (e.g. Virkon).”

Cats that have been infected with field strains of FCV and concurrently with feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) may have signs and symptoms that imitate FCV-VSD, so the AVA are also recommending testing for FPV as well.

The University of Sydney have begun researching those strains believed to have caused the current Sydney-based cases. If you believe you may have found another case, the AVA is counselling vets to contact Professor Vanessa Barrs (vanessa.barrs@sydney.edu.au).

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