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Feline Immunodeficieny Virus (FIV)  

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) causes an infectious disease in domestic cats and cheetahs similar to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV infection) in humans. It attacks and weakens the body's immune system, making the animal susceptible to infections and diseases that don't usually affect healthy cats. There is no cure for FIV, and the use of vaccines to prevent infection is somewhat controversial. FIV is a lentivirus, a virus that causes slowly developing disease. Though eventually fatal, an FIV-positive cat can live for many years without any signs of illness. FIV occurs worldwide and its prevalence varies geographically. About 1.5% to 3% of cats in the United States are infected with FIV. About 5% of FIV-positive cats also have feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Risk factors for FIV include: age; gender; illness; and time spent outdoors. Older cats are more likely to be infected. The average age of cats with FIV is 5 years at the time of diagnosis. Aggressive male cats that roam and fight with other cats are more likely to be infected than females and non aggressive males. Free-roaming cats are more likely to be infected than indoor cats.

Sick cats are much more likely to have FIV. In the United States, about 15% of all cats that show clinical signs of another disease are also infected with FIV. FIV is transmitted primarily through deep, penetrating bite wounds. In some cases, a mother cat can transmit the virus to her newborn kittens during gestation, as the kittens pass through the birth canal, or through nursing. Although these kittens may test positive for FIV for several months after birth, most will not become infected. Positive test results in a kitten younger than 6 months of age should be repeated (about every 2 months) until the kitten is at least 6 months old. FIV can also be transmitted through the transfusion of contaminated blood. FIV affects only felines. Some of the pathogens (i.e., bacteria, parasites) that cause opportunistic infections in FIV-positive cats may be transmitted from animals to humans and could cause illness in people with compromised immune systems.

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