Bluetongue virus found in 4 Member States – Commission takes action
The Bluetongue virus was discovered in cattle and sheep in four Member States during August. An outbreak was confirmed in the Netherlands on 18 August and in parts of Belgium and Germany close to the border with the Netherlands on 21 August. A further outbreak was discovered in the French Ardennes region on 31 August.
The authorities in the four countries have stopped all trade of live ruminants (hoofed animals) and their live products within a 20 km zone around the outbreaks. This is in line with EU Directive 2000/75/EC laying down specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue.
On 21 August, a Commission Decision on protection measures was backed by Member State veterinary experts in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. A 150 km surveillance zone was formally defined - covering most of the Netherlands and Belgium, all of Luxembourg and areas in the German Lander of North Rhine Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Hessen. Ruminants and their live products produced after 1 May 2006, cannot be moved out of the listed areas.
The European Commission was informed by the Community Reference Laboratory for Bluetongue in Pirbright (UK) on 28 August that the virus responsible for the recent outbreak was virus serotype 8. This strain of virus has never been reported in Europe before. First results suggest that virus serotype 8 is of a sub-Saharan lineage, although the precise origin and how it came to Europe is not yet known.
Bluetongue is an insect-borne viral disease which affects domestic and wild ruminants. It does not affect humans and there is no risk of the disease being contracted or spread through meat or milk. Bluetongue disease in sheep is characterised by a fever that may last several days. The virus can lead to reddening and swelling of the lips, mouth, nose and eyelids.