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Local feline diagnosed with incurable, contagious disease


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus has cropped up again in Petersburg, diagnosed in a feral cat trapped on the south end of Haugen Drive in the South Third Street area on Oct. 17.

The incurable disease, while not transmissible to humans or other animals, bears many symptomatic similarities to the like-named human scourge of HIV, suppressing the cats’ immune responses to infections and stymying their ability to recover – providing the only readily visible symptoms in the form of festering, unhealing wounds and general malaise.

“That’s one of the clues I have – when I see an animal like that, I want to test them,” said Dr. Ken Hill, veterinarian at Waterways Clinic who diagnosed and ultimately euthanized the dying feral. “This is not the first case either – we’ve had other incidents of FIV, but more cases of (feline) leukemia. It’s hard to tell the frequency, how many are out there, because you have to test, and not many people want to pay for the test – if we had a couple dozen (tests run) over the last four years, I’d be surprised. Basically, the best we can say is that if your cat goes outside, especially if it scraps with other cats, there’s a possibility (of infection).”

FIV is most commonly spread by contact with infected blood, primarily as a result from a cat fight, especially with bite wounds. It may, rarely, be transmitted to kittens in the womb or during nursing from an infected mother. Feline leukemia, FELV, transmitted much the same as FIV was one of the first forms of virally induced cancers discovered and, laws on animal experimentation, if not ethics, being more relaxed, there are functioning vaccinations against both, he added.

“We’re fortunate because we’re on an island, so we can actually have a handle on the homeless animal population, except for the cats, because they reproduce so fast,” said Anne Lee, a volunteer with the Petersburg Humane Association who assisted with trapping the afflicted feline. “We encourage people to spay and neuter their cats and give them vaccinations, which can be a new thing to some people.”

Lee noted that several new diseases had come to the island over recent years, spreading ailments primarily in the feral and stray populations as owners adopted and abandoned them at will.

The Humane Association checks the health of all animals taken in, but currently lacks a quarantine facility to harbor the few FIV/FELV cats that come in – ultimately leading to the hard reality of euthanization of afflicted individuals to protect the larger population.

More information on FIV/FELV may be found online at

/FHC/health_resources/CW_FeLV.cfm and other sites. To request a low-cost spay/neuter application, to volunteer, donate or for more information on the programs, leave a message with the Humane Association at (907) 518-1091 or mail to P.O. Box 1417.


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