Kittens (BC SPCA handout)

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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Caroline McKay
COLUMN: Bring books out of hibernation for the new year

Plenty of lesser-known works from famous authors available from the library

The trailer’s occupant fled the scene of the fire because he was afraid, officials were told. 
(Andrea DeMeer- Spotlight)
Princeton trailer fire deemed not suspicious

Man fled the scene because he was afraid, officials were told

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

Real estate sales in the South Okanagan grew by more than any other part of the province in 2020. (Marissa Tiel - Black Press)
South Okanagan fastest growing real estate market in B.C.

There was over $1 billion in residential sales in 2020

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Most Read