The Humane Society of Kent County is currently experiencing an outbreak of feline distemper (Panleukopenia). It is thought that the virus was introduced by an infected kitten left in the shelter’s drop room. From there, the virus spread to the vulnerable kitten population.
Humane Society personnel have acted swiftly to contain the problem and have enacted the following measures:
First, no new cats or kittens will be admitted to the shelter until all resident cats are deemed free of the disease. Because the incubation period of the disease can be as long as two weeks, it could be up to one month before new cats are welcomed.
Second, strict quarantine and sanitary protocols have been put in place to minimize further viral spread.
Third, no cats or kittens will be adopted out until they demonstrate no clinical signs for at least 2-3 weeks.
Feline distemper is a species-specific parvo virus which attacks rapidly dividing cells. Therefore, the gut of kittens is usually affected, causing clinical signs of vomiting and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Cells in the brainstem can also be attacked and those kittens show signs of incoordination and instability.
White blood cells become rapidly depleted-hence the name panleukopenia, and this leaves a cat vulnerable to secondary bacterial infection.
While there is no cure for panleuk, supportive therapy including fluids, injectable antibiotics, B12 and good nursing care can help sick cats recover.
Survivors are generally immune for life.
If you want to help, the shelter would welcome donations of newspapers, paper towels, bleach, rubber gloves and gently used towels.
Celeste Conn, VMD
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