NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus’ veterinarians association on Friday lauded a government decision to allow its stock of human coronavirus medication to be used on cats to fight a local mutation of a feline virus that has killed thousands of animals on the Mediterranean island.
The association said in a statement that it had petitioned the government for access to the medication at “reasonable prices” from the beginning of this year, when the mutation that causes lethal Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) began to noticeably crop up in the island’s cat population.
“We want to assure that we will continue to investigate and control the rise in case of FCov-2023,” the association said.
Local animal activists had claimed that the mutation had killed as many as 300,000 cats, but Association President Nektaria Ioannou Arsenoglou says that’s an exaggeration.
Arsenoglou had told The Associated Press that an association survey of 35 veterinary clinics indicated an island-wide total of about 8,000 deaths.
According to Arsenoglou, FIP is nearly always lethal if left untreated, but medication can nurse cats back to health in approximately 85% of cases in both the “wet” and “dry” forms of the illness.
What made FIP treatment difficult was the high price of the medication that activists said put it out of reach of many cat care givers.
Spread through contact with cat feces, neither the virus or its mutation can be passed on to humans. The feline coronavirus has been around since 1963. Previous epidemics eventually fizzled out without the use of any medication, Arsenoglou said.
Measures have already been enacted to prevent the export of the mutation through mandatory medical check-ups of all felines destined for adoption abroad.
It’s unclear how many feral cats live in Cyprus, where they are generally beloved and have a long history dating back thousands of years.