Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infections are major causes of death in cats. Surveys show that up to 15 percent of sick cats are infected with one or both of the viruses, and that even healthy cats may harbor infections and spread them to other cats*. A vaccine is available to prevent these diseases, but much additional work is necessary to explain these diseases and their treatment.
Sometimes research can have unexpected benefits. In 1978, there was a sudden, worldwide outbreak of a virus among dogs, which caused vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and, frequently, death. Researchers soon discovered that this disease, called canine parvovirus, was similar to the feline panleukopenia virus. Since a vaccine was already available for the feline panleukopenia virus, a vaccine for parvovirus was developed, tested, and made available for distribution within a year. Now recognized as one of the most significant success stories of modern veterinary science, the parvovirus vaccine checked the spread of the disease among adult dogs in the United States almost immediately. However, puppies between 6 and 16 weeks of age are still at significant risk of being infected by the virus, and further research is needed to protect pets of all ages.
*World Health Organization Polio Eradication Initiative- www.polioeradication.org