Italy's new battle: lysavirus in housecats
Officials in the central Italian commune of Arezzo have called for better surveillance of the cat population after a housecat contracted a rare rabies-like virus and began biting its owners.
Mayor Alessandro Ghinelli said a new ordinance calls for cat owners and carers of feral cat colonies to immediately report any symptoms that could point to the so-called “lyssavirus.”
The virus related to rabies has only been identified once before in 2002 in a bat in the Caucasus. It is unknown how the female 2-year-old cat in the Tuscan municipality contracted the virus.
Last month, the cat’s owners reported their pet suddenly became aggressive and bit three members of the family. Concerned, they took her to a vet, who she also attacked.
“You could see that she was suffering but she wouldn’t allow you to approach her, she basically had symptoms compatible with rabies,” said veterinarian Paolo Barneschi, as quoted in Repubblica daily on Tuesday.
The cat died after being transferred to another clinic, where specialists had suspected a neurological problem. The virus was identified after part of the cat’s brain was sent to an animal health institute.
Thirteen people who had handled the cat have been treated.
The new ordinance, in place until August 27, calls for any cats or dogs which have recently bitten people and who display suspicious symptoms such as biting, paralysis, or changes in temperament, must be quarantined for 10 days.