Research Article: Epidemiological evaluation of cat health at a first-response animal shelter in Fukushima, following the Great East Japan Earthquakes of 2011

Date Published: March 30, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Aki Tanaka, Philip H. Kass, Beatriz Martinez -Lopez, Shinichi Hayama, Tim A. Mousseau.


The Great East Japan Earthquakes of March 11, 2011 caused immense harm to the community and subsequent nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture extended the damage. Local residents were forced to evacuated without pets and the left behind animals were rescued from the restricted zone one month later. Unplanned animal rescue and unregulated sheltering caused secondary damage to animals such as disease epidemics at impounded animal shelter. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively evaluate the incidence of upper respiratory infection (URI) and diarrhea in cats at the first response animal shelter in Fukushima, and investigate factors affecting the duration of disease and determinants of treatments performed. Eighty percent and 59% of impounded cats developed URI, 71% and 54% of cats developed diarrhea, and 91% and 83% of cats had at least one disease in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Uses of multiple drug administration (more than five drugs) was associated with prolonged URI and diarrhea. Multiple antibiotics, antihistamines, interferon, and steroids were associated with relapse of and prolonged URI. Developing a standardized treatment protocol for commonly observed diseases at Japanese animal shelters to prevent and control diseases, to promote animal welfare, and protect public health in the face of future disasters is overdue.

Partial Text

After the Great East Japan Earthquakes of March 11, 2011, a 20 km radius around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was initially established as a restricted zone due to the radiation emergency (and has since been designated as an-evacuation directive lifted area). All residents within this area (over 110,000 people) were evacuated. The evacuation order was issued with no advance warning, and most local residents had no time to assemble their belongings to accompany them under the assumption that they would soon return. Consequently, their property, including pets, was forsaken for more than a month.

Animal rescue operations were launched amidst a worsening chaotic situation when animal welfare was not a high priority; sheltering was hence established in a disorganized manner by inadequately trained personnel in 2011. Lack of established standardized procedures was manifest by the rather inconsistent therapeutic approaches for diseased cats, consequently leading to more frequent and longer duration communicable diseases. Different volunteer veterinarians worked every day, with no uniformity or consistency in treatments even on the same cats. Twenty-four different medications were used for treating URI in 2011, including five types of antihistamines, 13 types of antibiotics, two kinds of steroids, and others. Medicating with more than five drugs in the same patient was associated with longer duration of clinical signs, more frequent incidence, and relapse of URI.




0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments