A cat with HIV? That’s strange but indeed true.
Scientists say there is evidence that cats could be carrying the infectious disease. The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) was found in the blood of a cat tested at Lancet Laboratories in Nairobi, Kenya.
This has caused panic among feline lovers who fear the spread of the disease among cats and the possibility of infecting humans, through scientists say the latter is not scientifically possible.
Although the virus was first documented in 1986 and has been found in cats in the United States and other parts of the world, this is the first time it has been detected in Kenya. According to Lancet, the virus manifests in much the same way that HIV does in human beings.
It lowers immunity, leaving the cat vulnerable to opportunistic diseases. Ultimately, it degenerates into a full blown version of feline AIDS and kills the cat through opportunistic infections. However, cat owners should not panic and throw out their pets because the virus cannot be transmitted to human beings.
“This discovery should prompt cat owners to protect their cats from exposure to the virus by keeping them indoors and reducing contact with free-roaming cats that carry the virus,” said Dr Dhaval Shah, a veterinary pathologist at Lancet Kenya.
The virus is primarily transmitted among cats through bites during fighting.
According to a study published study by Cornell University in the US, casual, non-aggressive contact between cats has not been found to transmit the virus, therefore, those that live in a stable home environment and are protected from contact with feral cats are at little risk of infection.
Kenya Veterinary Association honorary secretary Kenneth Wameyo expressed concern at the large number of stray cats in the country. “An increasing number of Kenyans are keeping cats as pets. It is important for them to protect their pets from this virus through regular screening for the virus and to prevent spreading infection to other cats,” Dr Wameyo said.