In the face of feline disease outbreak in a shelter, when is it appropriate to kill every exposed cat in the place? How about never? Does never work for you? It works for me.
The Caldwell Co pound in NC had several cats die. Preliminary testing on two of them indicated Calicivirus. Then the story gets weird:
More samples were sent off for extensive tests and those results are not back yet. The virus is usually passed though the air from cat to cat, said Veterinarian Dr. John Thuss. “It normally is just a moderate illness, sort of like the flu in humans,” he said.
Thuss thinks there could be other factors involved in this case but cannot be sure until all the test results are back.
The Koret Shelter Medicine Program has an information sheet on Calicivirus:
Feline calicivirus is shed primarily in saliva and oculonasal discharge, but can be found in all body secretions during acute disease. Although FCV can be spread by droplets sneezed out to a distance of ~ 4 feet, true aerosol transmission of FCV is unlikely.
If Dr. Thuss believed the disease that was killing cats at the pound was transmitted by air, it wasn’t Calicivirus. This underscores the need for the additional test results. One area where Koret and Dr. Thuss are in sync is the potential involvement of other factors. Again from the Koret information sheet:
The obvious first step in deciding whether outbreak control measures are necessary is to definitely diagnose FCV and rule out other common causes of the observed signs, such as feline panleukopenia. Even if FCV is a contributing factor, the outbreak can often be resolved by controlling the co-factor, which may be more amenable to intervention. [...]
I can’t stress this enough: the vast majority of suspected [Virulent Systemic Feline Calicivirus] cases or outbreaks we are contacted about turn out to have another primary cause such as panleukopenia, disinfectant toxicity, or the cumulative effects of severe crowding, poor sanitation, problems with air quality and rampant disease from many causes adding up to a picture that looks a lot like VS-FCV.
So additional testing is critical to determine the true cause of the illness so that informed treatment decisions can be made. Koret adds:
In the meantime, of course, affected and exposed cats should be isolated as with any possibly infectious outbreak.
Sounds like a reasonable plan. Instead, the Caldwell Co pound killed all the “exposed” cats (exposed to air?), stopped accepting cats from the community and cleaned the cages (and I guess, the air?). All this before the needed test results were back. No informed decisions, no isolation, no treatment – just needless killing. And then they started taking in cats again – before the test results were back.
So Caldwell Co never knew what they were dealing with, killed 15 cats anyway, closed their doors to community cats in need, then re-opened, still ignorant of which virus(es) may have been killing cats in their facility.
If you watch the video at the link, the pound apparently houses cats in dog runs, which has got to increase the stress level for the cats and weaken their ability to fight disease. Oh and the coup de grace: the shelter says the public is at fault for not vaccinating their cats. No mention from the shelter on whether they vaccinate all cats upon intake, as per standard disease prevention protocol.
(Thank you Lisa for the link.)