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New strain of feline coronavirus identified in the UK

14 Nov 2023


BVA issues statement following a new strain of feline coronavirus detected in a cat imported into the UK.

New strain of feline coronavirus identified in the UK Image

A new strain of feline coronavirus (FCoV-23), first identified in the recent outbreak in Cyprus, has been detected in a cat imported from Cyprus into the UK. A cat infected with FCoV-23 may go on to develop Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) which can cause death if not treated.

Feline Coronavirus and FIP are both seen in the UK but existing strains of FIP are not known to spread between cats. The speed at which FCoV-23 spread across Cyprus suggests that this new virus is behaving differently and that it is being spread from cat to cat, most likely via faeces. This is a concerning change.

BVA President Anna Judson said: “The arrival of FCoV-23 in the UK is highly concerning, but so far this looks to be an isolated case in an imported cat, and action has been taken to minimise any spread of the virus. There is no known risk to people but pet owners should remain vigilant, because the virus can cause Feline Infectious Peritonitis, which if left untreated can be fatal to cats. If owners have any concerns about their pet, they should speak to their vet immediately.”

“The discovery of FCoV-23, combined with the increasing cases of Brucella canis from dogs arriving on our shores, shows the UK is seriously vulnerable to imported diseases. The Government needs to grasp the nettle on this crucial issue by introducing the long overdue import testing measures BVA has been calling for.”

The facts:

  • One case of a FCoV-13 infected cat has been identified in the UK. The cat was imported from Cyprus and developed symptoms in the UK. The risk that this cat has spread of the infection is very low, especially as they have been kept indoors.
  • Not every cat infected with FCoV-23 will develop FIP. However, in most cases FIP is fatal if left untreated, therefore it is crucial that any infected cat receives treatment at the earliest opportunity.
  • There is no indication that FCoV-23 can infect humans.
  • More research is needed to understand whether some cats can catch the FCoV-23 but not get sick, acting as a potential carrier that can pass it on to other cats. It is also unknown if some cats have a natural resistance to the virus that will make them less likely to get sick.
  • Feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIP) is not usually spread directly from cat to cat. Further research is needed to confirm how the virus FCoV-23 is spread, however, new evidence suggests that cats can spread it to other cats, likely through a faecal-oral transmission route.
  • There is currently no evidence of an increase in illnesses in dogs or other pets where the virus has been identified. It is also not known if other animals, such as prey species, can carry the virus without showing signs of illness.
  • In the early stages of FIP, general signs of ill health may show such as listlessness, reduced appetite, weight loss and fever. Later in the disease symptoms may include a swollen belly, difficult breathing or nervous system signs such as wobbly walking, twitching, collapsing or seizures

Treatment is available to treat FIP and owners should speak to their vets if they have any concerns about their pet.


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