Livestock virus returns to menace Europe

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

Tests on sheep in the Allier region of France revealed five out of 175 were affected
Tests on sheep in the Allier region of France revealed five out of 175 were affected

Related tags: European union, Livestock

Bluetongue disease has been reported in France, Romania and Hungary in the first outbreaks in the EU since 2011 and in France since 2010.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said the French outbreak was reported in the Allier region, where clinical signs were spotted in a single sheep, first observed on 21 August.

Tests were then carried out and samples tested positive in five out of 175 sheep and 27 out of 147 cattle. Disease control measures are in place according to the French Ministry of Agriculture with a 150km zone in place, where there is a restriction on animal movements, plus active surveillance and a ban on gatherings.

In addition, the French government and livestock sectors have in place a vaccination strategy; 1.3 million doses of vaccine will be made available as soon as possible. Preliminary investigations suggest an additional seven holdings in the 2km zone around the first case have infected animals, the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Cases diagnosed

Romania’s National Authority for Veterinary Health and Food Safety (ANSVSA) announced in a release on Tuesday (September 15) cases of bluetongue have been diagnosed on three farms in Botosani county in the north of the country. In addition, on September 10, two cases of the disease were diagnosed in Hungary for the first time since January, according to several reports.

ANSVSA representatives said it had notified the European Commission, the EU member states and the OIE about the presence of the virus in Romania.

According to Defra’s Dr Helen Roberts, these are the first outbreaks of BTV-8 reported in the EU since 2011 and since 2010 in France.

Many unknowns

According to the preliminary outbreak assessment, written by Roberts and published on 14 September, there are still many unknowns: “At present, the results of the epidemiological report suggest this is not a recent import of infected animals, but whether this is the result of unreported virus circulation possibly in livestock or wildlife, a vaccine problem or imported infected midges is not known. More investigations will be carried out in the region and the neighbouring areas to determine the source of infection.”

Roberts said the implications were still unclear for the UK. “Until the origin of disease is understood and the extent of spread, it is difficult to assess whether this outbreak signifies an increase in our risk level from low to medium,​the report stated. ​Meteorological modelling of recent weather conditions to assess whether the UK has been at risk of incursion in the past two months will be carried out.”

Bluetongue is not zoonotic and there are no food safety issues; milk and meat of infected animals are safe to eat. A vaccine is authorised and available in the UK for BTV-8.

Related topics: Meat

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