IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd September, 2023 Health

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Picture Courtesy: www.osmosis.org

Context: The recent outbreak of feline panleukopenia at Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bengaluru is a concerning situation.


  • Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects cats, both domestic and wild, such as leopards. It is caused by the feline parvovirus and can have severe consequences, especially in kittens and young cats.
    • The cubs were vaccinated but still fell victim to the virus highlights the challenges associated with preventing and treating feline panleukopenia.
    • Vaccination is an essential preventive measure, but it may not always guarantee full protection, especially if the virus mutates or if the immune response in the vaccinated animals is not sufficient.
  • Possible Source: The source of the virus is believed to be other cats, possibly within the zoo or the wild. Since the leopards were rescued from the wild, there is a possibility that the virus was introduced from their natural habitat.
  • Mutation: The mutation of viruses is not uncommon and can lead to variations in their virulence and transmission. It's possible that the virus strain responsible for this outbreak had characteristics that made it more dangerous or resistant to vaccination.
  • In response to such outbreaks, wildlife and veterinary authorities typically implement measures like quarantine, increased biosecurity protocols, and monitoring of the remaining animals to prevent further infections and ensure the overall health of the zoo's inhabitants. The situation underscores the need for ongoing vigilance and research to protect the health of captive and wild animal populations.

Origin of Feline Panleukopenia

  • Feline panleukopenia, commonly known as feline distemper, originates from the feline parvovirus (FPV). This virus is thought to have diverged from the lineage of the canine parvovirus (CPV), which affects dogs.
  • Over time, FPV has adapted to specifically infect cats and has evolved into a distinct strain. Importantly, FPV does not transmit to humans or dogs, making it a disease that primarily affects feline species. This separation in the evolutionary path of the virus is a key factor in its ability to target and infect cats, leading to the disease known as feline panleukopenia or feline distemper.

Transmission of Feline Panleukopenia

  • Direct Contact: The virus spreads when an uninfected cat comes into close contact with an infected cat. This can occur through activities like grooming, biting, or any form of direct interaction with an infected cat.
  • Indirect Contact: Feline panleukopenia virus can persist in the environment for an extended period. Indirect transmission can occur when a cat comes into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. This includes items like food dishes, litter boxes, bedding, and other materials that may have been in contact with infected cats or their bodily fluids.
  • In Utero (During Pregnancy): Kittens can acquire the virus from their infected mother while still in the womb. This in-utero transmission can result in kittens being born already infected with the virus.
  • Via Nursing (Lactogenic Transmission): Nursing kittens can also become infected if their mother is shedding the virus in her milk. This form of transmission is known as lactogenic transmission.

Due to the various modes of transmission, feline panleukopenia can rapidly spread in environments with close-knit cat populations, such as multi-cat households, animal shelters, and zoos. Preventive measures, including vaccination and hygiene practices, are crucial for controlling its spread.

Symptoms of Feline Panleukopenia

  • High Fever: Infected cats often develop a notably high fever, which is one of the initial and prominent signs of the disease.
  • Lethargy: Cats affected by feline panleukopenia become markedly weak and lethargic, exhibiting a decrease in their usual activity levels.
  • Vomiting: Severe and frequent vomiting is a characteristic and distressing symptom. This can contribute to dehydration and further complications.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea is another prevalent feature of the disease, often characterized by bloody or foul-smelling stool. It can lead to significant fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Loss of Appetite: Infected cats typically experience a loss of appetite and may refuse to eat. This contributes to weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Dehydration: Due to the combination of vomiting and diarrhoea, cats with feline panleukopenia are at high risk of becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to various complications and exacerbate other symptoms.
  • Depression: Infected cats often exhibit signs of depression. They may withdraw, appear disinterested in their surroundings, and display behaviours indicative of social isolation.
  • Leukopenia: A hallmark of the disease is a significant reduction in the white blood cell count, a condition known as leukopenia. This severely impairs the cat's immune response, making them more vulnerable to secondary infections.

Cure and Treatment for Feline Panleukopenia

  • While there is no specific cure for feline panleukopenia, a combination of supportive care and prompt intervention is crucial for improving the chances of recovery in affected cats.
  • Fluid Therapy: Intravenous fluids are administered to combat dehydration and maintain proper hydration levels in the affected cat. Dehydration is a significant concern due to vomiting and diarrhoea, and restoring fluids is essential to prevent further complications.
  • Nutritional Support: Cats suffering from feline panleukopenia often lose their appetite and may refuse food. To meet their nutritional needs, they may receive nutrient-rich fluids or special diets, which provide essential nutrients and energy.
  • Medication: Veterinarians may prescribe medications to manage specific symptoms. Anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea drugs may be given to alleviate these distressing symptoms. These medications can help improve the cat's comfort and overall condition.
  • Isolation: Infected cats should be isolated from other cats to prevent the further spread of the virus. This is a crucial step in controlling outbreaks, especially in multi-cat environments like shelters or catteries.
  • Vaccination: Vaccination is a critical preventive measure for feline panleukopenia. Cats should be vaccinated against the virus as part of their regular preventive healthcare. Properly vaccinated cats tend to have milder symptoms if they do contract the virus and are more likely to recover successfully.

It's important to emphasize that early intervention is essential for improving the prognosis of cats with feline panleukopenia, especially in young kittens who are particularly vulnerable. Timely medical care and supportive measures can greatly increase the chances of survival and recovery.

Mutation and Resistance to Vaccination

  • Viruses like FPV can mutate over time. These mutations can result in variations in virulence and resistance to vaccination. Occasionally, vaccine strains may not offer complete protection against mutated or variant virus strains.
  • Regular vaccination and vigilant monitoring of cat populations are therefore essential to address this challenge.


  • Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease affecting cats. Vigilant vaccination and hygiene practices are crucial for prevention. When outbreaks occur, prompt treatment and containment measures are essential to minimize the impact on cat populations.


Q. Consider the following statements:

Statement 1: Feline parvovirus (FPV) has evolved into a distinct strain from canine parvovirus (CPV).

Statement 2: FPV can be transmitted to both humans and dogs.

Which one of the following is correct in respect of the above statements?

A) Both Statement-1 and Statement-2 are correct, and Statement-2 is the correct explanation for Statement-1.

B) Both Statement-1 and Statement-2 are correct, and Statement-2 is not the correct explanation for Statement-1.

C) Statement-1 is correct, but Statement-2 is incorrect.

D) Statement-1 is incorrect, but Statement-2 is correct.

Answer: C


Statement-1 is correct as it accurately states that FPV has evolved into a distinct strain separate from CPV. Statement-2 is incorrect because FPV does not transmit to humans or dogs; it primarily affects feline species.