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Bluetongue Reaches Switzerland

29 October 2007

SWITZERLAND - The Swiss veterinary authorities have registered the first case of bluetongue disease in the country, after cows were infected near Basel.

Feeling blue: cattle must be taken inside before dusk if bluetongue threatens (Keystone)

The illness, which is not considered dangerous for humans but can devastate animal herds, has spread from Germany and France and is affecting much of northwestern Europe.

The Federal Veterinary Office announced on Sunday that six of 19 animals in a herd had tested positive for bluetongue. One cow presented severe symptoms and was put down.

Patrick Gerber, whose farm sits north of the Rhine, told Swiss television that it was obvious that something was wrong with some of his animals on Thursday.

The viral disease is transmitted by insect bites; in this case a particular species of midge. It is not passed on between animals.

Even if bluetongue is not dangerous for humans, the meat from infected animals is not used and their carcasses are eliminated according to Basel City's cantonal veterinarian, Markus Spichtig.

Owners are reimbursed 90 per cent of a diseased animal's value by the Swiss authorities.

Protection zone

On Monday a protection zone with a 20-kilometre radius was set up around the farm. Cows, sheep and goats will not be allowed to leave the area except to be slaughtered and only with permission from the cantonal veterinarian.

Other measures inside the zone include moving animals inside before dusk. The aim of the authorities is to slow the spread of the disease by preventing diseased ruminants from travelling to other parts of Switzerland and to avoid contact between animals and midges.



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