Angels of Assisi's Adoption Center closed for two weeks due to cats infected with deadly disease

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ROANOKE (WSLS10) - A highly contagious disease has forced Angels of Assisi to euthanize more than a dozen cats. The center told us the ones euthanized were suffering from the often-deadly disease known as pan leukopenia. We've learned nearly 38 cats could be infected.

"We only euthanize when it is the only humane thing to do," said Lisa O'Neill, the executive director at Angels of Assisi.

Now, the adoption center is closing for the next two weeks and has quarantined the infected animals.

It started when Angels of Assisi took in 38 cats Wednesday.

"We actually took these cats on good faith from another rural shelter that told us the cats were healthy and there were no signs of disease," said Mathew Brown, the adoption center director.

Friday is when several cats started showing symptoms and tested positive for pan leukopenia, a highly contagious and deadly disease.

Veterinarians noticed something was wrong when several kittens showed signs of fever.

"Then we have really severe diarrhea and vomiting," commented Medical Director Michelle Spangler. "There are sometimes upper respiratory signs associated with it as well."

The new litters brought to the center were not crated with other cats however, they did share a room. The virus spread quickly from one cat to another.

"It's a very preventable disease," said Spangler. "The vaccine is extremely proficient. So, a properly vaccinated cat has a very, very low chance of developing pan leukopenia."

The cats already at the center were not vaccinated and then exposed to the new litters. Now, it's costing the center up to $40,000 to get rid of the bacteria and traces of the disease.

This isn't the first time the disease was brought to the center. This winter, Angels of Assisi took in 60 cats from Bedford carrying the virus. However, all of the cats already at the center were vaccinated.

Now, the center needs to buy cleaning solution, medication, new supplies and crates to prevent the disease from spreading.

Angels of Assisi is offering pan leukopenia vaccinations at its clinic for $10 Thursday.

Center management will re-evaluate procedures to make sure this does not happen again.