Recently, in the USA, virulent mutants of feline calicivirus (FCV) have been identified as the cause of a severe and acute virulent systemic disease, characterised by jaundice, oedema and high mortality in groups of cats. This severe manifestation of FCV disease has so far only been reported in the USA. However, in 2003, an outbreak of disease affected a household of four adult cats and an adult cat from a neighbouring household in the UK. Three of the adult cats in the household and the neighbouring cat developed clinical signs including pyrexia (39·5 to 40·5°C), lameness, voice loss, inappetence and jaundice. One cat was euthanased in extremis, two died and one recovered. A postmortem examination of one of the cats revealed focal cellulitis around the right hock and right elbow joints. The principal finding of histopathological examinations of selected organs from two of the cats was disseminated hepatocellular necrosis with mild inflammatory infiltration. Immunohistology identified FCV antigen in parenchymal and Kupffer cells in the liver of both animals and in alveolar macrophages of one of them. In addition, calicivirus-like particles were observed by electron microscopy within the hepatocytes of one cat. FCV was isolated from two of the dead cats and from the two surviving cats. Sequence analysis showed that they were all infected with the same strain of virus, but that it was different from strains of FCV associated with the virulent systemic disease in cats in the USA. The outbreak was successfully controlled by quarantine in the owner’s house.
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