Brussels, 18 August 2006
The European Commission has been informed of a confirmed outbreak of Bluetongue in sheep in the southern part of the Netherlands. Further investigations and laboratory testing are currently being performed at the Community Reference Laboratory in Pirbright (UK), to identify the strain involved.
Bluetongue is an insect-borne viral disease which affects domestic and wild ruminants. It does not affect humans and there is no risk of the disease being contracted or spread through meat or milk. Bluetongue is frequently reported in southern Europe, particularly in parts of Italy and Spain, but this case in the Netherlands is the first ever to be detected in Northern Europe. The Dutch authorities have stopped all trade of live ruminants and their semen, embryos and ova, and put a standstill on the movement of ruminants and their live products within a 20km zone around the outbreak. An Italian expert is assisting the Dutch authorities in addressing the situation. A coordination meeting between the Commission, the Netherlands and the bordering Member States was held this morning and special meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health will discuss the situation on Monday. A Commission decision will then be adopted on the Community measures to be taken, including a ban on the dispatch and export of live ruminants and their semen, embryos and ova from the affected area, which will include neighbouring countries. Protection zones (100km radius) and surveillance zones (50km radius) around the infected farm should also be established, in line with Directive 2000/75/EC laying down specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue.