The island nation of Cyprus has been grappling with a severe outbreak of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) since the beginning of the year, causing a significant loss of both domestic and stray cats. Dinos Ayiomamitis, the head of Cats PAWS Cyprus, reports that this fatal disease, caused by the feline coronavirus (FCoV), has devastated the feline population. This issue has stirred concerns, particularly given the historical link between Cyprus and the UK, involving expatriates traveling back and forth as well as the rehoming of cats between the two regions.

FIP is a result of the mutation of the feline coronavirus, which is commonly present in cats and spreads through their feces. While most cats exhibit no symptoms or only mild diarrhea when infected with this virus, in some instances, it mutates into FIP, an invariably fatal condition. Dr. Jo Lewis, a feline veterinary surgeon, highlights that cats in densely populated environments sharing facilities like catteries and rescue centers are at a higher risk of infection. Additionally, the virus can be mechanically transmitted through grooming tools, cat litter tools, and even via human contact, thereby explaining the impact on indoor-only cats in Cyprus.The International Society of Feline Medicine, represented by Dr. Nathalie Dowgray, expresses deep concern regarding the outbreak’s implications for cats, their owners, and veterinarians in Cyprus. For many affected cats, especially strays, treatment is often not a viable option, resulting in substantial mortality rates.

Diagnosing FIP is challenging, but common symptoms include fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. There are two forms of the virus: wet FIP and dry FIP. In cases of the former, cats experience an accumulation of fluids in the abdomen or chest, leading to swelling. The likelihood of a cat contracting FIP depends on factors like the specific mutations of the virus, the viral load, and the individual cat’s immune response, explains Dr. Dowgray.

Given the close ties between Cyprus and the UK, the risk of FIP spreading to the UK raises concerns. The potential catastrophic impact of such an outbreak on the UK’s feline population is a matter of serious consideration. Vigilance, awareness, and preventive measures are crucial to mitigate the potential threat posed by this deadly cat virus.

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