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Outbreak of bluetongue disease (BTD) in Germany and the danger for Europe

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In August 2006, the blue tongue virus (BTV-type South Africa serotype 8) was detected for the first time in cattle blood probes in the Netherlands, immediately followed by cases in Belgium and in cattle on German farms, which were situated close to Aachen at the border to those countries. Within less than 2 months the disease spread eastwards crossing the Rhine, southwards to Luxemburg and to Northern France. At the end of the year 2006, nearly 1,000 farms were affected in Germany. Catches on two German cattle farms proved that the ceratopogonid species Culicoides obsoletus was obviously the vector, since many females—fed and unfed ones—were found to be infected with this virus. This sudden outbreak of bluetongue disease (BTD) is surely not a primary result of global warming, but rather an effect of globalization—i.e. the intensive worldwide import and export of animals; but a hot summer, as in 2006, and a warm winter like that of the years 2006/2007 supported the new spread starting again in masses in August 2007 leading to 596 PCR-confirmed cases until then with more than 200,000 animals infected. Thus, new agents coming from elsewhere have only a chance to spread if appropriate vectors are available and the conditions remain favourable during a reasonably long period. Effects of global warming—of course—will support persistence of such outbreaks of diseases due to offering of spreading of imported viruses, bacteria and/or parasites.

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Correspondence to Heinz Mehlhorn.

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Summary of a presentation given at the Workshop in Berlin.

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Mehlhorn, H., Walldorf, V., Klimpel, S. et al. Outbreak of bluetongue disease (BTD) in Germany and the danger for Europe. Parasitol Res 103 (Suppl 1), 79–86 (2008).

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