June 24, 2012 00:00 By Laurie Rosenthal The Nation o
Research continues into the Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus but a cure has yet to be found
Readers have phoned or emailed me to ask for more information on the Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus (Fiv), and to ask what will happen to Mekhala, who is infected with the virus.
The main question readers ask is if humans can be infected by Fiv. The answer is “no”, not from cats. We, unfortunately, have our very own infection, HIV.
Nor can other animals be infected with Fiv. Researchers have found, though, that some species have their own immuno-deficiency virus. Some primates carry the Simian Immuno-deficiency Virus (Siv). A few years ago, researchers found koalas carrying their own virus (Kid), and other species seem to have their own specific virus.
Although researchers haven’t discovered (so far) any Canine Immuno-deficiency Virus in dogs, some breeds can suffer from another kind of autoimmune disease. This disease is genetic and usually results in the death of the dog before it reaches its second year.
A cat acquires Fiv when it’s bitten by an infected cat. A simple blood test can show whether or not a cat has the virus. Just be careful. An infected mother cat can give birth to babies who are negative but might test positive because they’ve picked up the antibodies from her milk. The best time to test kittens is at least two months or more after they’ve been weaned.
Among the best ways to protect your cat from infected cats is neutering, which reduces fighting.
Some cats with Fiv never show any symptoms and live long and healthy lives. Some die within a year or so of being infected. Mekhala, now going on five years, was almost symptom-free last year.
I thought that somehow, she might continue healthy, but this year, her immune system seems to have grown weaker. Just three weeks ago, her gums were inflamed, wounds on her head were not healing properly, and the yeast infection on her paws indicated how weak her immune system really is.
I’m happy to say that slowly, very slowly, her sore mouth has healed, and her wounds are beginning to close. Her paws, thanks to that shampoo treatment, are improving too.
She’s not yet 100 per cent, and she may not ever be. There’s no cure for this disease, no effective way to boost her immune system. We have to treat each symptom as it appears.
Perhaps, some day, there will be a cure, but I have to accept that as much as Mekhala enjoys life, her life may be short as she deals with this complex, still little understood disease.
For now, though, I’m learning to be thankful for every day this extraordinary creature is with us.