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WMC REPORT - Concerns Raised over Bluetongue Spread

08 September 2008

SOUTH AFRICA - Increased outbreaks of bluetongue and the possibility that the disease could be spread by indigenous midge species is causing concern across Europe, writes TheCattleSite Senior Editor Chris Harris from the World Meat Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

Speaking to the sheep meat committee of the International Meat Secretariat during the session in advance of congress, Peter Hardwick from the Horticulture and Agriculture Development Board Meat Division of the UK said there were widespread concerns over the way the disease is rapidly advancing across Europe.

He said the disease, which was first found in Europe in 1999, has spread from areas of the Mediterranean because of a succession of mild winters.

He said that last year had seen a rapid expansion of the disease, which is now affecting countries as wide apart as the UK and Poland and the Czech Republic and Denmark, as well as the traditional southern European countries.

Me Hardwick added that the disease is being controlled through movement bans and restriction zones when it is discovered and an effective vaccination programme is currently being carried out.

However, he added that the problems that are currently being experienced in France, where distribution of vaccine had met problems, had shown up how rapidly the disease can spread if the vaccination programme is not fulfilled.

"All these measures are putting quite strain on the system and at considerable cost," Mr Hardwick said.

"Where vaccination has not taken place in France, they have a very, very serious problem indeed."

He said that now the disease has emerged again in south west France, the country could introduce an enforced vaccination programme rather than the current voluntary programme.

Across Europe, the numbers of cases of the disease have risen from 2,708 in 2006 to 40,931 last year and the vaccination programme has cost around €500 million.

He said that there are new developments in the understanding of the disease and concerns that it could now be spread through indigenous species of midge.

There are also questions over whether the husbandry of the animals in Europe, particularly cattle that can harbour the disease, is helping to spread it. He questioned whether confinement of animals could increase the potential to spread the disease.

However, Mr Hardwick added that although the disease has had an effect on farming across Europe and has hit the sheep industry particularly severely, there had been little effect on consumer confidence in meat and on the meat trade, although milk production in some EU states had been hit where they had difficulties in meeting their quota.

Further Reading

- You can visit our Bluetongue information page by clicking here.

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