Italy: cat dies from mystery bat virus in Arezzo

Pet-owners in Arezzo told to keep dogs and cats under close observation.

Pet-owners in the Tuscan province of Arezzo have been warned to look out for signs of illness or strange behaviour in their cats or dogs after a domestic cat died from an extremely rare rabies-like disease, first detected in a bat in the Caucasus region of southeastern Europe in 2002.

The two-year-old housecat had become aggressive with its owners, biting three members of the family, and had begun to display symptoms including difficulty in breathing, tremors and a staggering gait.

The cat, which also attacked the family's veterinarian, was transferred to another clinic for tests but died four days after its symptoms began, reports Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

On 27 June, following analysis of the animal's brain at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, researchers found that the cat's illness had a 98.52 per cent match with West Caucasian Bat Lyssavirus (WCBV).

This form of lyssavirus was previously detected in an insectivorous bat, Schreibers’ Bent-winged bat, in the western Caucasus Mountains in 2002, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is unclear how the cat came to be infected with the lyssavirus although there are bat colonies near the house where the cat lived. There are no reported incidents of WCBV in humans.

The affected cat, which came and went from its home freely by day and night, was housed with another cat, three kittens and one dog, all of which are now under observation. It is not known whether any of these animals were vaccinated.

Arezzo mayor Alessandro Ghinelli has issued an order calling for pet-owners to closely observe the behaviour of their dogs and cats, and to report any symptoms that could suggest the animals have been infected by the lyssavirus.

The order, in effect until 27 August, requires that dogs or cats which have started to bite people or are showing symptoms of paralysis, difficulty in swallowing or sudden changes in behaviour, must be placed under quarantine for 10 days.

All dogs, even when muzzled, must be kept on a leash, and dog-owners must notify authorities immediately if their dog escapes.

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Address 52100 Arezzo, Province of Arezzo, Italy

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Italy: cat dies from mystery bat virus in Arezzo

52100 Arezzo, Province of Arezzo, Italy