Highly contagious feline coronavirus ravages Cyprus, ‘Cat Island’

300,000 cats have died since January 2023 in Cyprus, an activist has estimated. In question, the feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), caused by a coronavirus not transmissible to humans. On the other hand, he is wreaking havoc on the island’s cat population after undergoing a mutation, explained veterinarian Kostis Larkou. The transformation of the virus is all the more worrying since its original version is present in 90% of local felines.

More than a million cats, the vast majority of them strays, live in Cyprus nicknamed “the island of cats”. Felines with FIP are recognizable by the symptoms they develop: fever, swollen abdomen, weakness, even aggression. Many veterinarians, however, felt that they lacked the means to officially diagnose the pathology in cats. The number of cases would thus be underestimated, some say.

A rare and expensive molecule

Faced with the risks run by cats, animal rights defenders have called on the government to take measures to limit the circulation of the virus. Two drugs are likely to effectively fight the infection. Only one of them, an antiviral called “GS-441524” is authorized in the country. However, it is rare in Cyprus due to import restrictions.

The cost of the treatment, several thousand euros per cat, is also prohibitive for many masters. This is why voices are being raised to authorize the other drug adapted to the situation, molnupiravir, allowing an animal to be treated for around 200 euros. In the meantime, many feline owners are resorting to the black market and online shopping.

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