Brussels, Sep 2006
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has asked the EU's Member States to cooperate in the collection of scientific data and analysis of the animal disease Bluetongue. Bluetongue is a viral disease that affects wild and domestic ruminants, such as sheep. It is transmitted by midges of the genus Culicoides, and is characterised by inflammation of the mucous membranes, congestion, swelling and haemorrhages. The disease does not affect humans, and there is no risk of it being spread through meat or milk.
The disease has been present in southern Europe for some years, but this year outbreaks have been reported for the first time in northern Europe, notably in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Now the EFSA is asking Member States, in particular those where the disease is already present, to share any scientific data they have on Bluetongue, as well as national risk assessments. EFSA will use this information to develop a network of EU Member State experts and national agencies involved in risk assessments in the animal health field. Together with EFSA's Working Group on Bluetongue, these experts will develop scientific advice on the containment of Bluetongue.
Areas where greater understanding of the disease is needed include the way in which Bluetongue is spread and the role of insects other than Culcoides midges in transmitting the virus. According to EFSA's Animal Health and Welfare Panel, an integrated European approach is necessary to tackle the outbreak. However, EFSA notes that if it is to provide solid scientific advice to the EU, data collection systems and sampling procedures must be harmonised across the EU, methods of data sharing between Member States need improving, and the origins of the latest outbreak into the EU will have to be investigated.
Since 2000, EU rules have set down procedures designed to halt the spread of the disease. These include the establishment of surveillance zones around infected areas and restrictions on the movements of animals out of these zones.Further information: