Travelers urged to beware of cat coronavirus

In Cyprus, which is a popular travel destination for Latvian residents, the cat coronavirus is now spreading rapidly. Although this virus has not been detected in Latvia at this time, it is worth keeping an eye out for when traveling,  the Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) told Latvian Television's 4. studija on February 22.

Feline infectious peritonitis, also known as “cat Covid,” is spreading in Cyprus. It's not dangerous for humans, but it can be deadly for cats, so those who plan to go to sunny Cyprus or have recently returned from it should be extra cautious.

Tatjana Ribakova, senior expert at the PVD's animal infectious disease surveillance unit, said that in some cases, the cat coronavirus mutates so far that it causes very severe, clinical signs in cats. Veterinarian Kaspars Kovalenko explained that peritonitis-infected cats have a distended abdomen, decreased appetite, disheveled hair.

'It's usually about five weeks between the time the diagnosis is made and the animal's death. And we don't have treatment in Europe right now,” the vet noted.

At the same time, Kovalenko said the main way to bring this virus from Cyprus, which is about 2,000 kilometers from Latvia, would be with an infected cat. “It can be a source of infection for other animals, that's the main mode of transmission,” explained the specialist.

Meanwhile, Ribakova pointed out that the virus can also be passed on mechanically to the animal by a person, for example, if a cat has rubbed against shoes, trousers or bags.

'Usually [transmission of the virus occurs] by fecal-oral route, i.e. the virus is more excreted through the digestive tract, through feces. Anything that comes into contact with these feces could be the source for transmission to the cat afterward,” Ribakova said.

Cyprus is home to a very large cat population, with approximate estimates at between one million and 1.2 million. Ribakova advised against petting stray cats if at all possible.


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