The outbreak of a fast-spreading disease at the SPCA's animal centre in Vancouver has led to the discovery of a new feline virus that affected 43 cats in B.C.
It started when eight cats fell ill on a single day in 2018 with symptoms like a human stomach flu, but Dr. Emilia Gordon, the senior manager of animal health, says they became concerned when tests came back negative for parasites.
Gordon says in a news release they knew within days that they were dealing with a virus or bacteria they hadn't faced before.
Outbreak tracing found two cats in the Quesnel shelter introduced the illness to Vancouver's facility, where it spread rapidly before being detected.
A research team at the University of California, San Francisco found the new species of parvovirus, which isn't related to COVID-19, and those findings were recently published in the science journal Viruses.
Gordon says the high rate of recovery was due to a quick response and stringent control measures, although two of the 43 cats that were ill were euthanized because of other medical problems.
"As soon as we understood we were dealing with something unusual, our first goal was to stop the outbreak so more cats wouldn't get sick," Gordon says. "Our second goal was to try to get answers for our teams, for the cats, and for other shelters and veterinarians facing unexplained gastrointestinal outbreaks in cats under their care."
She says being part of the discovery of the new virus was very exciting, however data from a single outbreak isn't enough to be certain the virus can cause disease and more research will need to be done.