28 Sep 2023 at 15:00
The viral disease bluetongue is spreading rapidly among sheep and cattle in the Netherlands. Most infections occur in the center of our country. The agricultural organization LTO speaks of a worrying situation, but intervention is not that easy.
Bluetongue was detected this week at 319 companies in the Netherlands. This is evident from an overview by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority NVWA. The virus first appeared this month at four companies in North Holland and Utrecht.
What is bluetongue?
Bluetongue is a viral disease that occurs in ruminants, such as sheep, goats and cattle. The bluetongue virus is spread by midges, a type of small mosquito.
Sick animals develop a blue tongue and inflammation in their mouths. Some animals recover from the disease, but other animals die from complications. For example, they can die from fluid retention or because they cannot eat or drink properly.
People cannot be infected with the bluetongue virus. Bluetongue cannot pass from animals to humans.
Companies do not have to cull infected animals, which is the case with bird flu, for example. However, different rules apply, outgoing Minister Piet Adema (Agriculture) previously wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives.
For example, companies are temporarily not allowed to remove infected animals, except for slaughter. They are also not allowed to dispose of living products, such as sperm, eggs and embryos. In addition, conditions apply to trade to European member states.
Adema expects that the virus will have spread throughout the Netherlands before the winter and that it will still be there after the winter. Midges thrive in this weather and survive mild winters.
Intervening is difficult, ministry is looking at vaccine
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture says that intervention is difficult because the virus is transmitted by midges.
“Companies can bring the animals in before dusk. That reduces the chance that they will be stung by a midge,” the spokesperson tells NU.nl. “A well-ventilated stable also makes a difference.” Midges don’t like wind. “But it remains a complicated situation.”
LTO Netherlands calls the situation worrying. The agricultural organization wants a safe vaccine to be available as soon as possible. The Ministry of Agriculture is currently investigating whether there is a vaccine in countries outside Europe against the type of bluetongue that is currently prevalent in the Netherlands and whether that vaccine can also be used here.
“There is a lot involved in this, so unfortunately we cannot provide a definitive answer yet.” The ministry is also in discussions with pharmaceutical companies in the Netherlands about a longer-term solution.
Bluetongue first broke out in the Netherlands in 2006. In 2008, the first animals were vaccinated against the disease. Ultimately, bluetongue disappeared from our country in 2009.
In 2012, the Netherlands received special European free status, because our country had been free of bluetongue for three years. This made it easier to export animals. But that European free status has lapsed with the new outbreak.
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