The viral bluetongue disease 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 discovered this week in 319 companies in the Netherlands. This is demonstrated by an overview conducted by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority NVWA. The virus first appeared this month in four companies in the North Netherlands and Utrecht.
Wat is blauwtong?
Blauwtong is een virusziekte die voorkomt bij herkauwers, zoals schapen, geiten en runderen. Het blauwtongvirus wordt verspreid door knutten, een soort kleine mug.
Zieke dieren krijgen onder meer een blauwe tong en ontstekingen in hun bek. Sommige dieren herstellen van de ziekte, maar andere dieren overlijden aan complicaties. Zo kunnen ze bijvoorbeeld doodgaan door vochtophopingen of doordat ze niet goed kunnen eten of drinken.
Mensen kunnen niet besmet worden met het blauwtongvirus. Blauwtong kan namelijk niet overgaan van dier op mens.
Companies do not have to cull infected animals, as is the case with bird flu, for example. However, different rules apply, outgoing Agriculture Minister Pete Adema wrote in an email Brief To the House of Representatives.
For example, companies are temporarily not allowed to remove infected animals, except for slaughter. They are also not permitted to dispose of living products, such as sperm, eggs, and embryos. In addition, the conditions apply to trade with European Member States.
Adema expects that the virus will spread throughout the Netherlands before winter, and that it will remain there after winter. Midges thrive in this weather and survive mild winters.
Intervention is difficult. The ministry is searching for a vaccine
A spokesman 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. This reduces the possibility of them being bitten by flies,” the spokesman told NU.nl. “A well-ventilated stable makes a difference too.” Midges do not like the wind. “But the situation is still complicated.”
LTO Holland also described the situation as 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 currently spreading in the Netherlands and whether this vaccine could be used here as well.
“There’s a lot going into this, so unfortunately we can’t give a definitive answer yet.” The ministry is also in discussions with pharmaceutical companies in the Netherlands about a long-term solution.
Bluetongue disease first broke out in the Netherlands in 2006. In 2008, the first animals were vaccinated against the disease. Ultimately, the blue tongue disappeared from our country in 2009.
In 2012, the Netherlands received a special European free status, because our country has been free of the blue tongue for three years. This made it easier to export animals. But this free European status has ended with the new outbreak of the disease.
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