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NAPLES, Italy — Americans living in Naples who want to fly their dogs home on commercial airliners must first get their pets tested for leishmaniasis before a pet passport will be issued, officials said.

The Campania regional government, for which Naples is the capital, recently passed a law requiring the test after a rash of stray dogs began showing signs of the disease, said an Italian veterinarian technician. The law is an effort to curtail the spread of the sometimes-fatal illness to other countries.

Between 2000 and 2005, there were 1,049 cases of the disease in Italy, the most of any European nation, according to the latest World Health Organization statistics. Figures for 2006 are not available on the WHO Web site. By comparison, there were 614 cases of leishmaniasis in Spain for the same time period.

So far, only one laboratory in Naples can conduct the test, which has created a 20-day waiting period from when the dog’s blood is drawn to the delivering of the test results. Blood can be drawn at any Italian veterinarian clinic. The animal clinic at the U.S. Navy support site base in Gricignano is working to establish either an account with the lab, or find a way to perform the test and meet the Italian requirement, said Army Capt. Olivia Price, the clinic’s veterinarian.

The increasing number of infected stray dogs in Naples is the biggest contributor to the problem of leishmaniasis, spread by the bite of an infected sand fly, Price said.

The sand fly thrives in the heat and has been a problem for troops serving in the Middle East. Sand flies like standing water, but they don’t need it to live and reproduce. Brush and even trash bins will do, and Campania has seen its share of piling trash as the region has grappled for months with a refuse crisis.

Leishmaniasis comes in three forms: cutaneous, affecting the skin; mucosal, affecting the mouth, nose and throat and which can disfigure; and visceral, affecting internal organs and can be fatal if untreated.

Symptoms in dogs include hair loss on the rims of the ears or scaling and crusting of skin on their noses, Price said.

Dogs should wear what is called a Scalibor collar between the peak season of April through October. The collars are available at Italian pharmacies and at the base vet clinic. Dogs infected with the disease should wear the collars year-round.

It’s better to treat infected dogs in Europe, Prince said, because diagnosis and treatment are more effective than in the States, where the disease is not as prevalent.

A few human patients in Naples have been treated for cases of leishmaniasis, Price said. Cats don’t seem to be attacked by sand flies and do not require the test.


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