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Feline Calicivirus in Canberra

A much more severe strain of an old cat virus has recently come to Canberra. Feline Calicivirus is one of the cat flu viruses, but in recent years a much more severe form of the virus has affected cats around the world, and has unfortunately now come to Canberra. Although this virus is the same family as the cat flu Calicivirus, this new infection:

  • May NOT cause cat flu like symptoms
  • Cats are NOT protected by vaccination
  • Persists in the environment for much longer than the respiratory form.

Signs of the new Calicivirus include:

  • Lameness (may shift from leg to leg)
  • Ulcers on the nose and / or tongue
  • High fever leading to poor appetite / failure to eat, shivering, hiding
  • sneezing
  • vomiting
  • bleeding
  • swelling (of the limbs)

These cats become very sick and may die, although most survive with supportive care in hospital.

Importantly these cats are highly contagious – the virus is airborne and can therefore contaminate any animal, person or surface. This means our hands, clothing, shoes, objects and pets can carry the virus. Further, and very importantly, the virus can survive in the environment for at least 30 days, and is not killed by commonly used antiseptics.

Our priority is that the hospital does not become a source of infection for your cats. The infection does NOT affect humans or species other than cats BUT humans, dogs etc. could carry the virus home and allow your cat at home to be infected.

What are we doing?

Gungahlin Veterinary Hospital (and Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services) are

  • maintaining a very high degree of suspicion for cases in sick cats
  • maintaining very high levels of quarantine within the hospital (e.g. only using one consulting room for any cat which may be sick, and disinfecting it after use
  • maintaining the highest level of hygiene – we have cleaned and disinfected our wards and treatment rooms for top to bottom and quarantined many items from these environments
  • not allowing potentially infected cats to be carried through the hospital, instead they are carried around the outside of the hospital to the nearest door to our quarantine area
  • have set up foot baths at entrances to minimise both entry and possible exit of the virus from the hospital

What should you do?

  • Minimise the risk of picking up the virus from the hospital by staying in the waiting area and consultation room.
  • Don’t touch other animals (especially cats) at the hospital – this includes cat carriers etc
  • Walk through the foot bath when you leave the hospital
  • Change your clothes and wash well with (liquid) soap and water before handling any cats at home