Cat Herpes - Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

Cat Herpes is usually referred to as Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is a respiratory disease of cats caused by feline herpesvirus 1, of the family Herpesviridae. It is also known as feline influenza and feline coryza. Viral respiratory diseases in cats can be serious, especially in catteries and kennels. Causing one-half of the respiratory diseases in cats, FVR is the most important of these diseases and is found worldwide. It is very contagious and can cause severe disease, including death from pneumonia in young kittens. All members of the Felidae family are susceptible to FVR, in fact FHV-1 has caused a fatal encephalitis in lions in Germany.

FVR is transmitted through the air and direct contact. The virus is shed in saliva and eye and nasal secretions, and can also be spread by fomites. FVR has a two to five day incubation period. The virus is shed for one to three weeks postinfection. Latently infected cats (carriers) will shed FHV-1 intermittently for life, with the virus persisting within the trigeminal ganglion. Stress precipitates shedding.

Symptoms of FVR - the Initial symptoms of FVR include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and sometimes fever and loss of appetite. These symptoms usually resolve within four to seven days, but secondary bacterial infections can cause persistence of symptoms for weeks. Frontal sinusitis and empyema can also result. FHV-1 also has a predilection for corneal epithelium, resulting in corneal ulcers, often pinpoint in shape. Infection of the nasolacrimal duct can result in chronic epiphora (excess tearing). FHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant queens, usually at the sixth week of gestation.

Diagnosis of FVR - is usually by the symptoms, especially corneal ulceration. Definitive diagnosis can be done by direct immunofluorescence or virus isolation.

Treatment and prevention -Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary bacterial infections. There are no specific antiviral drugs in common use at this time for FVR. More severe cases may require supportive care such as intravenous fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, or even a feeding tube. Conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection. L-lysine has been recommended anecdotally to suppress viral replication.

There is a vaccine for FHV-1 available, but although it limits the severity of the disease, it does not prevent Feline viral rhinotracheitis. Most household disinfectants will inactivate FHV-1.

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