The number of cases of rabies has been rising just over the Swiss border in Italy – a development causing concern among Swiss officials.
Switzerland has been free from the virus, which can be deadly for humans and animals, for more than ten years.
Italy recorded just nine cases of rabies in 2008. By 2009 this had risen to 69 and by May this year, more than 180 infected animals had been found, according to the public veterinary institute IZSVe in Venice which monitors such cases across Italy.
Particularly affected are the northern Italian regions. The disease, thought to have made its way into Italy from eastern Europe, has mostly affected foxes, but there have also been instances among cats and horses.
“The situation is worrying,” Cathy Maret, spokeswoman from the Federal Veterinary Office, told the Swiss News Agency.
Italy has been taking anti-rabies measures since December 2009, which could also help Switzerland, Maret said. Dogs have to be vaccinated against the illness in South Tyrol. Foxes are receiving bait laced with anti-rabies vaccine.
The veterinary office is in close contact with the Italian authorities. The use of bait would be an option should rabies come any closer, Maret added. Animals should be vaccinated before going abroad.
Switzerland eradicated rabies in 1999.
swissinfo.ch and agencies