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TheBeefSite Newsletter - 23 September 2015

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Wednesday 23rd September 2015.
Michael Priestley - Editor

Michael Priestley

MSD Animal Health

French Bluetongue Could "Blow Up" Significantly

The latest Bluetongue (BTV) outbreak in central France has the potential to engulf Europe again, a leading expert has told TheCattleSite.

Vaccine doses currently available to French authorities so far are "not enough" to contain the virus, according to Professor Peter Mertens, Head of Pirbright Institute's Vector-borne Viral Disease Programme. click here for full article

A package of 1.3 million doses was released on Monday, which will be focused on animals intended for export.

"The vaccine requires two doses to work in cattle," said Professor Mertens, meaning the number of cattle that could be safeguarded is only in the hundreds of thousands.

"They can't hope to vaccinate all of the cattle now. Measures such as movement restrictions, increased surveillance and testing and vaccinating animals for export are being rolled out."

On discovering the virus on a sheep and cattle farm at Les Brulards in central France, French authorities imposed a 150 kilometre protection zone, containing 4.6 million cattle, 700,000 sheep and 160,000 goats.

BTV can be spread by Culicoides midges or via the movement of infected sheep, goats or cattle.

Likened to "aerial plankton", Professor Mertens said midge clouds, that may include infected insects, will usually only move at up to ten kilometres an hour, the limit of their tolerance to wind.

Commenting on this speed of travel, he said: "Midges often fly at dusk or dawn and their activity and movement depends on both temperature and wind speed, although their movement over land is relatively slow.

"The assumption is that midges have a mechanism to stop them landing in water, so when they reach the English Channel they could spend up to 10 to 16 hours in the air, and at wind speeds of 10km per hour they could potentially be travelling up to 160 kilometres, easily reaching the UK from France in a single night."

The Met office is monitoring and modelling wind conditions and keeping Pirbright and Defra informed about the risks.

Discussions with vaccine manufacturers are taking place, although there are also concerns with BTV serotype 4, which has re-emerged in south-eastern Europe, he added.

Official reports of cases of serotype four were released in Romania and Hungary earlier this month. A year ago, BTV-4 swept across the Balkans northwards from Greece before cooler weather led to a drop in notifications through the winter.

Further Reading

You can visit our Bluetongue information page by clicking here.

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