Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) causes vomiting, diarrhea, and can cause sudden death in cats. The virus is transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route (including through exposure to objects/clothing/hands contaminated with virus from feces). FPV is very durable unless inactivated by an effective disinfectant, and can persist in the environment for months or even years.
The incubation period of FPV is generally less than 14 days, and cats may shed infectious virus for two to three days before clinical signs are observed. Kittens are at highest risk for this disease, and adult cats with current vaccinations are at very low risk. If multiple vaccinated adult cats are infected, panleukopenia is very unlikely to be the cause. Salmonella is the most common alternative diagnosis, as it can cause similar symptoms and can spread to vaccinated adult cats.
Although a scary and potentially devastating disease in a shelter, reliable vaccination on intake, effective routine cleaning with a parvocidal disinfectant, and housing that minimizes fomite transmission will greatly reduce the risk of spread. With new tools for diagnosis and risk assessment, even outbreaks can generally be managed without resorting to depopulation.
Control is dependent on effective vaccination, keeping cats separate during the time they may be incubating the disease, and careful cleaning and disinfection of all areas in which cats are housed.