Title: Alarming Surge in Cat Deaths in Cyprus and Poland Raises Concerns over Zoonotic Transmission Risk
Subtitle: Health experts fear a potential link between recent cat deaths and increased risk to humans
In a distressing turn of events, experts are warning of a more virulent strain of feline coronavirus that is sweeping through Cyprus, resulting in thousands of cat fatalities. The outbreak, unrelated to Covid-19, has left many pet owners devastated and raised concerns about the potential risk to human health. Similarly, dozens of cats in Poland have succumbed to avian flu infection, further deepening worries over zoonotic transmission.
The feline coronavirus responsible for the devastating outbreak in Cyprus is known to cause feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a fatal illness in cats. Although the exact number of deaths is difficult to ascertain, veterinarians estimate that around 300,000 cats have perished, indicating a disturbing rise in cases. Experts agree that the situation is alarming and may be attributed to a more virulent strain of the virus.
Speculations are rife that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may have indirectly contributed to the emergence of this new strain. It is believed that cats, which can contract the novel coronavirus, may carry antibodies that influence the evolution of existing feline coronaviruses. This, in turn, could explain the severity of the recent outbreaks in Cyprus and Poland.
Similar anecdotal reports from veterinarians in Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel have indicated an increase in FIP cases as well. However, no such pattern has been observed in the UK or Europe, providing some respite. Nevertheless, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) advises precautionary measures for cats imported from Cyprus, urging for pre-travel testing and refraining from moving them if they test positive for the virus.
In Poland, authorities are currently investigating an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu in domestic cats. According to reports, 29 cats have tested positive for the virus, resulting in 11 deaths. The situation is further exacerbated by reports of deaths among other mammalian species, including pet dogs, farmed mink, seals, and sea lions.
The source of cat infections is still under scrutiny, with possibilities including direct or indirect contact with infected birds, consumption of infected birds or contaminated food, or contact with wild birds. Fortunately, there have been no reports of cat owners or individuals in contact with infected cats showcasing symptoms of infection.
To mitigate the risk, the European Food Safety Authority recommends keeping cats indoors and dogs on a lead in areas where H5N1 influenza in wild birds has been confirmed. This precautionary measure aims to limit potential contact between pets and infected wildlife.
As the investigation continues and efforts are made to contain the outbreaks, the global veterinary and public health communities remain on high alert, closely monitoring the situation to assess any potential threat to human health.