Worries about the spread of the potentially deadly feline panleukopenia virus islandwide have subsided, with no new confirmed cases since the last discovery earlier this month in Kahului, the Maui Humane Society's director of veterinary service said Thursday.
"I haven't heard of any other cases, so fingers crossed," Miyo Miyasaki-Kim said.
Despite the good news, the humane society remains on high alert and is holding three vaccination clinics - by donation - next month at the modular building behind its main shelter at 1350 Mehameha Loop in Puunene.
A feral cat paces through Kepaniwai Park recently. The Maui Humane Society reported no new cases of the potentially deadly feline panleukopenia virus.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The clinics will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon July 5, 12 and 19. Cats should be at least 6 years old and transported by secure carriers.
Carriers are available for rent from the humane society, and cardboard ones may be purchased before the event for $10.
The clinic is open to "friendly, tame cats" and will not accept feral cats or ones brought in improper carriers, according to the humane society.
Maui Humane Society also will be selling microchips at the clinic at a "significantly reduced price" of $15 each, which provides permanent identification of pets and helps reunite them with their owners if they are found as strays. The cost includes implantation of the microchip.
The panleukopenia virus, also called cat distemper, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever and sudden death, according to the humane society. The disease is prevalent on the Mainland but is uncommon in Hawaii.
The vaccine is a standard feline core vaccine that provides protection from the virus as well as most upper respiratory diseases, such as herpes and calicivirus.
"It's so protective. There's many diseases out there, and this isn't 100 percent protective, but it almost is," Miyasaki-Kim said. "Very rare do you hear of a vaccinated cat getting infected."
The highly contagious feline virus was first confirmed on Maui in late May in a colony of Upcountry cats, Miyasaki-Kim said. She recently spoke to Upcountry veterinarians, and they did not report any new cases.
On June 9, at least three cats brought to the Maui Humane Society by a Kahului family tested positive for the virus. The cats, however, were tested four days after entering the shelter and initially did not display symptoms of the virus.
Miyasaki-Kim said that the cats could have been infected while at the shelter, despite workers having disinfected the facility and having taken special precautions due to the disease. Serving as the only open-door animal shelter on the island, the Maui Humane Society has at least 50 cats and, on some days, as many as 50 kittens.
Miyasaki-Kim said that the testing for the feline virus is "fairly expensive" and reserved for suspicious cats.
"In Kahului, we were never able to confirm it," she said.
Feral cats remain a concern in spreading the virus, which can survive for up to a year or more.
"Even if all the affected cats die or are removed from an area, the virus can still exist on inorganic matter," Miyasaki-Kim said. "All you need is a susceptible cat to get infected and spread the virus to other areas."
Kittens remain the most vulnerable to the disease due to maternal antibodies interfering with the protective qualities of the vaccine, Miyasaki-Kim said. She added that kittens should begin a series of vaccinations four to six weeks after birth and continue receiving periodic shots until 14 to 16 weeks of age.
"I would not let my kittens out until they have completed their whole vaccination series," she said.
For the best pet care, though, the humane society encourages cat owners to see their veterinarian for routine physicals and examinations. Regular checkups help "early diagnosis of skin diseases, cancer, dental problems and other conditions that can be harder and more costly to treat later," according to the humane society.
The vaccine clinics do not take the place of regular veterinary care and are an emergency solution for cats that might otherwise not receive vaccinations.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.