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Shelters in Lake and Marion counties hit by feline panleukopenia outbreaks

Feline panleukopenia is especially dangerous for kittens, sick cats and those that are unvaccinated, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This kitten, photographed during an earlier panleukopenia outbreak, was being cared for at the Lake County Animal Shelter.
Courtesy photo
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Lake County
Feline panleukopenia is especially dangerous for kittens, sick cats and those that are unvaccinated, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This kitten, photographed during an earlier panleukopenia outbreak, was being cared for at the Lake County Animal Shelter.

Animal shelters in Lake and Marion counties are taking precautions following a spike in feline panleukopenia.

Shelters in both counties have -- for the most part -- halted the intake of cats and kittens. Officials said it's unclear when the shelters can safely accept cats again.

Lake County animal services director Whitney Boylston said her shelter has seen an "enormous spike" in panleukopenia, which is highly contagious and deadly for unvaccinated cats.

They've had 50 positive cases since May, she said. The virus lingers on surfaces and has a two-week incubation period. One litter of kittens got sick 13 days after exposure.

"So it's very, very difficult in an animal shelter, you know, once it's here, to get rid of it," Boylston said. "And we are doing everything we can, not only to isolate our cats that are sick, to protect the public's cats. And of course, providing intensive care to those kittens that are testing positive."

Boylston said it's very stressful but they're using their disease protocol -- isolating sick and exposed cats, treating sick kittens and stopping, for now, the admission of new felines.

She said kittens can be contagious for weeks after recovery. So some of them are in an isolation protocol, meowing in offices throughout the county.

"So I've got recovered kittens hanging out at the county attorney's office," she said. "I've got another set that are down at the Office of Emergency Management. So this is an all-hands-on-deck team approach to saving as many lives as we can."

Boylston is asking residents with kittens they might normally bring to the shelter to keep them at home for now, using the Wait-til-8 program -- which provides checkups, treatments and vaccines. She says the shelter could also use spare towels and disposable cat toys.

Marion County Animal Services is also counting on the public for its help.

"Our foster homes are truly amazing and are keeping 379 cats/kittens safe and away from the facility," Animal Services Director Kyra Lynch said in a prepared statement.

She is also promoting the Wait-til-8 program and urging people to leave kittens they find where they are with the mother cat.

"We are encouraging citizens to foster incoming kittens while diligently ensuring no cross contamination," Lynch added. "Our community donation supplies allow us to provide all necessities as well as medical care for those who foster abandoned kittens."

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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