The first case of feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) has been recorded in Switzerland. A house cat was struck by the disease, which is related to mad cow disease or BSE.
The six-year-old animal from canton Vaud was put to sleep after being diagnosed. The source of the infection remains unknown, but the health authorities said on Tuesday they believe the feline was contaminated early in its life by food containing insufficiently cooked brain parts.
Switzerland outlawed the use of brain and spinal cord in food preparations in 1996. The bodies of domestic and wild animals diagnosed with spongiform encephalopathies must also be incinerated.
FSE first appeared in Britain in 1990. Since then 90 domestic cats have been diagnosed with disease, and two other cases have been registered in Norway and Liechtenstein.
Cases of FSE have also been recorded among wild felines, such as lions and tigers. These animals had been fed with raw cast-offs from local meat processing factories.
FSE belongs to the category of transmissible spongiform diseases, but poses no threat to humans. It can only be passed on through the food chain.
The infectious agent responsible for FSE is thought to be closely related to the BSE prion. The incubation period is five years, the same as for mad cow disease.
The authorities also announced on Tuesday a slight decrease in the number of cases of BSE during the first six months of the year, despite more and more voluntary tests. Nineteen cases were registered in Switzerland, versus 22 last year.
Over 70,000 animals were tested for BSE from January to early July, three times as many as the previous year. Sixty thousand of the cows were brought for checking voluntarily.
swissinfo with agencies