Virus Killing Cats In Gans, Pennsylvania

VictorMore than a dozen possible cases of feline panleukopenia, a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease, has cat owners upset over the death of their cats and led an animal shelter to quarantine dozens of cats and kittens.

Three Gans residents said they unknowingly took home cats and kittens infected with the disease from the shelter. They said some of those kittens have died and spread the disease to their cats, which also died.

Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, is caused by feline parvovirus and attacks body cells, making cats susceptible to bacterial infections and other complications. Infection occurs when cats come in contact with blood, urine, fecal material, nasal secretions or fleas from infected cats. Infected kittens younger than 16-weeks-old have a 25 percent survival rate, while older cats may show no symptoms and have a greater chance of survival with treatment. It is not transmittable to people.

Symptoms include appetite loss, lethargy, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Treatment is limited to supportive therapy to help the cat gain enough strength to combat the virus with its own immune system. No medications can kill the virus and strict isolation is essential, according to the AVMA. A veterinarian can try to combat dehydration, provide nutrients and prevent secondary infection with antibiotics. Chances for recovery improve if a cat survives 48 hours, according to the AVMA.

Marilyn Martin, who has lost 3 cats in the outbreak, said she noticed some cats that appeared to be sick at the Fayette Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in North Union Township on September 15 when she volunteered to help clean animal cages. Her sister, Carolyn Rocca, works at the shelter.

Marin said that two female cats and their 11 kittens were in one cage and looked like they needed fostering. Rocca brought them to Martin’s home, which is next door to hers. “A week later, one of my cats collapsed on the floor,” Martin said. She took her sick five-month-old cat to a veterinarian, who said the feline had some type of contagious viral infection.

Rocca said she brought home five kittens that appeared to have conjunctivitis in their eyes to help them recover. However, two of the kittens from the shelter and three of her cats died. She said she could have carried the disease home on her clothes after handling infected cats at the shelter. Her family has more than 20 of their own cats as well as numerous dogs.

Laura Walters said Rocca, her across-the-street neighbor, brought her a cat from the SPCA on September 13 and it started showing signs of sickness two days later. The cat was so ill that a veterinarian euthanized it on September 20. She said she has another kitten that was beginning to show signs of illness.

All three women said they want reimbursement from the SPCA for the hundreds of dollars in veterinary bills they incurred.

Dr. Stephanie Shepherd, a veterinarian at Cheat Lake Animal Hospital in West Virginia, where Martin, Rocca and Walters took cats, said the animals were very sick and Walters’ cat had to be euthanized. The cats had diarrhea and were emaciated from an apparent virus, but tests to identify the disease were not conducted.

Rocca said she took the five cats from the shelter to another veterinarian who said they had feline distemper. She said she then confronted SPCA officials.

The SPCA began quarantining cats and kittens that might have the disease on September 21.

Olinda Beatty, the recently retired shelter manager, said health problems in cats are common and feline panleukopenia surfaced last year. Once, all the cats in the shelter had to be euthanized because of a disease that spread through the facility, she said.

Beatty said people who adopt pets are told and receive written instructions to have the dogs or cats examined by a veterinarian within 48 hours. If the animal is sick, the adopter has the option of returning the sick pet and taking a different one or receiving a refund of the adoption fees, she said.

“We don’t knowingly adopt out sick cats,” Beatty said.

The shelter has been vaccinating cats since discovering the problem, even though the vaccine hastens the death of cats that are already infected. Kittens have to be six-weeks-old before they can be vaccinated.

Source: The Herald Standard

Photo: Littleshelter

8 Responses to “Virus Killing Cats In Gans, Pennsylvania”

  1. catmom5 says:

    This is beyond sad. Don’t they keep new entries in isolation before putting them out with the resident population? My local hs had to go through and euthanize all the cats for a similar outbreak and it just about put the employees and volunteers over the edge. There must be ways to prevent this kind of outbreak ~ or at least greatly reduce the likelihood that it will happen. I’m so sorry for all those people who took fosters home only to lose them (and their own). Just sad!

  2. mittens says:

    you avoid it by not letting your cats breed and run wild so they end up in a shelter or feral situation. period. it used to be far more widespred as it’s highly contageous but the vaccine is most effective though not fraught with controversy like most all other vaccines.

  3. Diane says:

    I have to admit, I was thinking about volunteering at an animal shelter but this scares me to death. If I work with cats at a shelter, how likely is it that I will carry something home to infect my own cats?

  4. Dawn says:

    Unfortunately, many shelters don’t have the funds or the room to keep animals isolated. This is why it is so important to quarantine new pets from your old pets, especially if you foster and take in strays. It is not worth risking the health of your longtime pets

  5. Anonymous says:

    Diane, I volunteer at a no-kill non-profit shelter and I daily clean the isolation building, which is separate from the main shelter. I have 4 cats at home, and when I come home, right away I throw my clothes in the wash and take a shower. My cats at home are quite peeved that I don’t let them smell the OTHER kitties on me, but after the shower I make it up to them with love and treats, and all is forgiven.

  6. Jenny Bark says:

    Here goes my big trap again. I’m sure some of you remember me posting about our Misty & Roxy who I will always blame Eukanuba for killing. Misty was pb show dog, our Roxy came from a shelter about 20 or so miles from this one. I have never been in the shelter above but the one we got Roxy from was really bad. God bless the women that worked there but their was no way they could take care of that place or the $ no matter how hard they tried. Roxy was so sick but my husband said she was comming home with us, her name is Roxy & she is going to make it. Our vet didn’t even think she would make it & of course our other dogs got sick too. We all made it after a long time & lots of money. Roxy turned out to be a beautiful Belgum Tribet (sp) & just a perfect, perfect baby.

    I’m sorry if I get some of you upset because i like all of you, but I really believe there are a lot of bad kill shelters & animal control around. I really do belive some of you work in good ones but I think of what the animals would like to tell us about the bad ones they go to. My money goes to our two wonderful no kill shelters. This sickness & other sickness has happened before in this shelter & others & everyone can’t pay like Art & I did nor take off work to take care of the babies.

  7. mmfunkhouser says:

    This situation is a sad one to say the least. I have had personal experience with this and you do all you can to save those already infected and quarantine everyone else. You clean all cages and equipment as thorough as humanly possible and change gloves between handling each cat. And these procedures are followed everyday, but sometimes a virus does manage to fight its way in.

    We also do not adopt out any cats which show signs of illness, though sometimes this is hard because viruses can have incubation periods, thus the cat shows no signs for a week or two after infection. However, if someone calls us that has adopted a cat with concerns, we see the cat right away and provide vet care.

    As for those who volunteer, I have cats of my own, and when our shelter had distemper, I took every precaution. I purchased scrubs and as soon as I got home, my clothes went into the wash (my cats were permitted no where near dirty clothes), and I took a shower BEFORE handling my kitties. (They hated that but it was for their own good!) Our shelter made it through this rough time and I did not take it home with me.

    Those are desperate times and ones no one ever wants to face, but as long as proper cleaning and handling methods are practiced ALWAYS, the chance of an outbreak is decreased. Educating volunteers is a MUST and ALWAYS keep newly adopted (or stray animals) seperated from others, until they have received vet care and are slowly introduced with one another.

    I hope my two cents helps! Thanks!

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