International Cat Care and its veterinary division, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), are aware of an outbreak of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in Cyprus that has affected an increasing number of cats since January 2023.
This is extremely concerning for the cat population, veterinary professionals, cat owners and caregivers of Cyprus, and poses a risk for cats in other countries, such as the UK, from where cats and their caregivers regularly travel.
FIP is a disease caused by infection with a virus known as feline coronavirus. Though infection with feline coronavirus is very common, most cats show little to no sign of illness, and only a small number of cats infected with the virus typically go on to develop a disease called FIP – due to virus mutating and how their immune system interacts with the virus. FIP was once considered a fatal disease for most cats, however, legally sources of antiviral treatment options, including remdesivir and GS-44152, are now available in the UK and Australia, and via export to many other countries.
Outbreaks of FIP are relatively rare but may occur when infection with a local strain of feline coronavirus is combined with a population of cats who may be at risk due to their age, health status or other factors that may increase the likelihood of disease developing, such as the cat’s genetics. Generally, FIP is reported at around 1% of the feline population, but in outbreak situations, a 40-50% prevalence of FIP has been reported. The outbreak of FIP in Cyprus has spread quickly, including to indoor cats, which suggests a highly virulent strain of feline coronavirus is present on the island.
The University of Edinburgh is currently working with veterinarians in Cyprus and is in the process of sequencing the new viral strain associated with the current outbreak, which will help provide more information about its spread and control. Import of a legal source of GS-441524 has also been secured to treat cats diagnosed with FIP, but its use will be limited by cost, particularly for the unowned/stray cat population.
Cat owners are advised against travelling with cats to and from Cyprus where possible to avoid spreading the virus – this includes the adoption of unowned/stray cats. If travel is deemed essential, testing for feline coronavirus should be discussed with a veterinarian, and the University of Edinburgh can offer further advice.
Feline coronavirus is shed in the faeces of infected cats and spread to others via contact with the infected faecal matter, which is subsequently ingested when grooming. Good environmental hygiene (especially of litter trays but also brushes, food and water bowls) and avoiding housing cats in large groups can help reduce the risk of disease, particularly in rescue and rehoming facilities – the virus is readily inactivated by most detergents and disinfectants. Stress plays a role in the development of FIP, so considering a cat’s environment and the number of cats remains important.
There are no reports of feline coronavirus infecting humans. Feline coronavirus belongs to the α-coronavirus genus and is taxonomically distant from SARS-CoV-2, a member of the β-coronavirus genus and the causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
For more information on FIP, including treatment, visit: https://icatcare.org/advice/feline-infectious-peritonitis-fip/
For more information on the Cyprus outbreak, contact Prof Danielle Gunn-Moore: [email protected]