Containment a ‘long shot’ as more cases of cat virus reported

Another case of the deadly feline panleukopenia has been confirmed in a kitten from the Kahului area behind the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, bringing the total number of confirmed cats on the island with the virus to eight since the first report of the outbreak in late May, according to the Maui Humane Society’s count.

The fact that the disease was confirmed in the populated Central Maui area means that “there is no way of being able to contain it,” said Miyo Miyasaki-Kim, the Maui Humane Society’s director of veterinary service, Wednesday.

She explained that the first three confirmed cases in a cat colony on Lower Kimo Drive, near the Kula Hardware & Nursery, were in an isolated area. The hope was to keep the outbreak of the disease penned up in the area, though Miyasaki-Kim knew that it would be “a long shot to contain it.”

With the reports of four cats with panleukopenia in the blocks between the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center and Lihikai School and another cat outside the “hot spot” in Kula last week, the outbreak has spread beyond the original colony. And because panleukopenia can be active as long as a year in the wild and be transported on shoes, slippers and car tires “there is nothing that will prevent it from spreading further,” she said.

She said that the disease, which was foreign to Maui prior to the outbreak but prevalent on the Mainland, is probably going “to become endemic,” with flare-ups from time to time.

“In shelters on the Mainland . . . it is their deadliest virus for cats,” Miyasaki-Kim said. “It is their main problem.

“It is going to change our life here at the shelter.”

Miyasaki-Kim said there is no way to determine how the disease came to Maui. It is not contractible by humans.

The most recent case, a kitten from the Kahului area, was left Monday in the overnight kennels at the Humane Society; it died Tuesday from the disease, said Jennifer McGurn, administrative assistant at the Humane Society.

The person who dropped off the kitten left contact information, so Humane Society officials were able to collect more information about the kitten, which was ill when it was brought in, Miyasaki-Kim said.

Jamie Fitzpatrick, director of animal and client services at the Humane Society, said Wednesday that the latest Kula case and Kahului cases have animal officials “not sure where it will show up (next).”

“This could just get us in a situation where cats that are unprotected are more at risk,” she said.

The panleukopenia virus, also called cat distemper, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever and sudden death, according to the Humane Society. It is highly contagious to cats, which can contract panleukopenia without coming into direct contact with an infected feline.

Vaccination provides protection from the virus as well as most upper respiratory diseases, such as herpes and calicivirus. Cat owners are encouraged to vaccinate their cats as soon as possible.

Maui Humane Society is holding two more vaccination clinics at the shelter this month, Saturday and July 19, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Clinics will be held in the Humane Society’s modular building behind the main shelter building. Parking will be available next to the building or along the roadway.

Cost is by donation.

These clinics are meant for friendly, tame cats. Cats and kittens should be at least 6 weeks old, and all cats should be transported in secure carriers. Cats in improper carriers will not be accepted. Carriers are available for rent from the Humane Society, and cardboard carriers may be purchased at the shelter ahead of time for $10.

Feral cats should not be brought to the vaccine clinics.

The first clinic was held Saturday and 51 cats were vaccinated, though Humane Society officials were hoping for double that total, said McGurn, adding that the Fourth of July holiday weekend may have been to blame.

For more information, call the Humane Society at 877-3680, ext. 23, or go to the Humane Society website at or Facebook page at

* Lee Imada can be reached at