Kittens (BC SPCA handout)

BC SPCA team helps discover new feline virus after 43 cats and kittens fall ill

Fechavirus is a kind of parvovirus, which makes cats and kittens very sick

A mysterious outbreak involving sick cats and kittens at two BC SPCA branches has led to a team of veterinarians aiding in the discovery of a new feline virus.

The discovery of the new parvovirus, called fechavirus, was recently published in an animal medical journal, according to a news release from the animal welfare agency on Thursday (May 28).

It all began when eight cats fell ill on a single day in 2018 at the BC SPCA in Vancouver, presenting symptoms similar to a human “stomach flu,” such as vomiting and diarrhea, followed by recovery within a few days in most cases.

When the cats’ tests came back negative for parasites, Dr. Emilia Gordon, senior manager at the Vancouver location, and her team became worried that another type of virus or bacteria could be the culprit.

“We knew within a few days we were dealing with something very unusual and unlike anything we’d faced before,” Gordon said in a statement Thursday (May 28).

“We started saving samples and reaching out to external experts right away. That enabled us to eventually contribute to the discovery of the new virus.”

Shortly after, the team found out that BC SPCA’s Quesnel shelter had also been affected by the same illness and their “patient zero” could be traced to a litter of kittens from a rural area near Williams Lake who fell ill shortly after entering the shelter.

“Outbreak tracing also showed that two cats from Quesnel introduced the illness to the Vancouver shelter, where it spread rapidly before being detected,” Gordon explained. “Because vomiting and diarrhea are fairly common problems in cats, it wasn’t until a number of cats got sick at the same time that we realized there was a larger problem.”

A total of 43 cats were affected. Forty-one survived with medication and fluids while two others had to be euthanized due to other medical problems combined with symptoms that were not resolving despite treatment, the SPCA stated.

Through extensive testing and sharing of information with the University of California, San Francisco, research teams there were able to find the new virus.

Gordon said being part of the discovery of a new virus is “very exciting and we hope that other veterinarians and researchers will consider and study fechavirus as a possible cause of contagious gastrointestinal disease in cats.”

However, she noted that data from a single outbreak “isn’t enough to be certain the virus can cause disease,” and more research is needed.

Ultimately, though, Gordon hopes that the BC SPCA’s effective response to this outbreak will help serve as an example to other animal shelters that infection control is possible while also optimizing animal welfare with an all-hands-on-deck approach.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Cats

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Mountain Market showcases local goods

The Mountain Market is held each Sunday morning in Fernie’s Rotary Park

Summer races kick off at Fernie Alpine Resort

FAR jumps into their summer programming with mountain biking and trail running races

Summer Stories Around Town program encourages outdoor reading in Elk Valley

With storywalks and clothesline stories in Fernie and Sparwood, everyone can get reading

School District 5 identifies funding needs in yearly budget report

The SD5 board presented three main projects that need increased funding in the coming years

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Most Read