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Animal Disease Situation

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Bluetongue Disease (BTV-8 and BTV-4) continues to circulate

After Germany was affected from Bluetongue disease from 2006 to 2009, it has now been officially free from this animal disease since 2011. 

Since 2014, Bluetongue disease, serotype 4 (BTV-4) has spread from Greece to the Balkans towards the Northwest. In late 2015 and early 2016 cases were detected in Austria. So far, in 2016 mainly Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia have been affected. Some of the cases in Northern Italy, which affected mainly cattle and sheep, but also individual goat and mouflon holdings, are only less than 150 km away from the German border.

In France, Bluetongue disease serotype 8 (BTV-8) has been circulating since August 2015. In autumn 2016, the number of reported BT cases increased again strongly and the affected area expanded. Meanwhile some of the reported cases are only 150 km away from the German border (see map).

Consequences for Germany

Although the current epidemics of BTV-8 and BTV-4 go along with less severe symptoms of disease, clinical surveillance is important for early detection. The following symptoms are possible: fever, mucosal inflammation, ulcers and necrosis of the skin and oral mucosa, lips, nose, teats and udder, edema of the head and extremities and respiratory dysfunction. If animal holders observe any of these symptoms, they should contact their veterinarian without delay.

As Bluetongue disease has spread further towards Germany and the animal disease can lead to severe illness and death, particularly in sheep and goats, animal holders should vaccinate susceptible animals against BTV-8 and BTV-4. In some federal states vaccination against Bluetongue disease is subsidized. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination in Veterinary Medicine has issued a vaccination recommendation on February 2, 2016. (in German language only)

Risk Assessment on the Introduction of Bluetongue Disease, Serotype 4, last updated November 2015

In addition to recent developments in the spread of BTV serotype 4, the updated qualitative risk assessment on the introduction of bluetongue disease also includes serotype 8 outbreaks in France. Furthermore, the FLI has published recommendations for an increased surveillance of bluetongue disease. 

Bluetongue virus (BT) of the serotype 4 (BTV4) currently circulating in Southeastern Europe continues to spread northwards, however more slowly than in the previous year. Since September 2014, Hungary has been reporting cases of BT caused by the same virus strain that is circulating in Greece and Romania. In November 2015, BT was detected in Austria, for the first time in the last seven years. The virus also belongs to serotype 4. A BT outbreak has also been reported from Slovenia in close vicinity to the Austrian border. Currently (30 November 2015) the 150 km restriction zones end at a distance of 80 km from the German border (one year ago the distance was still 400 km). In addition, BTV-4 infections have been detected in particular in Italy; the virus type however is not identical with the one circulating in the Balkan states.

In September 2015, BTV-8 re-occurred in Central France for the first time since 2010 and spread over a large area. To date, 90 outbreaks have been reported. The restriction zones end at a distance of approx. 100 km from the German border (30 November 2015).

There is a risk of introduction for BTV-4 and BTV-8 into Germany

  • by the wind-borne spread of infected live vectors,
  • by introduction of infected vectors through trade and traffic and
  • by trade with susceptible animals, sperm, embryos and egg cells

Due to the rapid spread of the virus in Southeastern Europe the risk of introduction by live vectors in the upcoming biting midge season is assessed as likely to high

In the exposure estimation the risk of introduction by live vectors is assessed as high, for all other introduction routes as low.

The consequence estimation shows a high risk, as both BTV-4 and BTV-8 hit an unprotected population and cause severe economic damages and considerable suffering to animals.

In addition to the legally required measures, vaccination is an option. However a vaccination programme can cause considerable costs and is only suitable to prevent a spread of bluetongue disease if vaccination coverage is adequately high.