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Pest and Disease Occurences - Update on the European Animal Situation

by 5m Editor
25 January 2008, at 12:00am

By USDA FAS GAIN Files. Foot and Mouth Disease, Bluetongue and Avian Influenza have developed beyond expectations in 2007. The impact on markets has, however, been limited to mostly smaller, temporarily intra-EU disruptions. These disease outbreaks run counter to the Animal Health Strategy 2007-2013. This report consolidates reporting on these animal disease developments in the EU from all EU FAS offices.

2007 has been a bad year for the European animal heath status. While the Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) situation has further improved and the fight against Classical Swine Fever (CSF) in the newer EU Member States (NMS) is celebrating success,
Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Bluetongue (BT) and Avian Influenza (AI) H5N1 have
demonstrated the EU’s vulnerability for animal diseases. The advent and development of
these animal diseases runs counter the EU’s desired policy for animal disease prevention as
stated in the Animal Health Strategy 2007-2013 (see GAIN E47015), E47096 and E47110.

Foot and Mouth Disease in the United Kingdom (UK)

In the second half of 2007, the United Kingdom suffered from an outbreak of FMD, which apparently resulted from a biosecurity breach at Pirbright laboratories as a result of weak maintenance of wastewater discharges. In total, six cases of FMD were identified in August and September 2007 in the broader vicinity of the facility. Because no further outbreaks occurred, all restrictions, including for export, were lifted as of December 31, 2007. Details on this latest situation are available from the DEFRA website. While the UK escaped a major disaster like the 2002 FMD outbreak and meat exports were only disrupted in a limited way, the economic loss for the UK agriculture and meat sector have been massive.

Bluetongue spreads throughout Europe

Until the summer of 2006, BT was a tropical disease that occasionally made inroads into the Mediterranean countries of the EU with only few local consequences. However, in 2006 a BT strain of serotype 8 seemed to have adapted to temperate host mosquitoes and a new BT epidemic started in the east of Belgium, which rapidly spread to neighboring Germany, The Netherlands and France. The winter of 2007 was extremely mild and soon in 2007 it became clear that the virus had survived winter. A spectacular expansion of the disease continued through the summer and autumn of 2007 as no vaccine was available to stop the disease. BT outbreaks of this serotype 8 strain were identified from the UK to Poland and the Czech Republic, and from Denmark to the center of France by the end of 2007. Other BT serotypes have also made considerable progress in invading the Mediterranean EU MS.

The impact of the BT epidemic on EU meat trade is very limited, because meat is not infected by BT. Also, EU exports of susceptible living animals had already considerably decreased as a result of animal welfare constraints. Intra-EU trade has been hampered because of the increase in administrative burden to transport animals within the infected areas. This serotype 8 BT is, however, having an important economic impact because of its relatively important mortality. Mortality in sheep is over 50 percent, while reports of mortality in cattle, especially for weaker animals like calving cows, indicate doubled mortality of vulnerable cattle from normal levels. Together with a decrease in milk productivity, this BT epidemic is held co-responsible for below quota milk production in the most heavily affected MS. Unless an effective vaccine becomes available in early 2008, it can be anticipated that this BT epidemic will further spread and become endemic in a large part of the EU. The economic impact is also expected to increase exponentially, particularly for sheep breeders if the disease were to invade the UK sheep flocks.


6 "http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/controlmeasures/BlueTongue_RestrictedZones.jpg"

Is Avian Influenza here to stay?

After initial outbreaks of AI H5N1 led consumers in southern Europe to a confidence crisis in poultry meat in the winter of 2006, reports of AI outbreaks have become familiar to consumers. Strict discipline by poultry producers in the application of biosecurity measures has kept AI outbreaks in commercial poultry production to a strict minimum. The majority of outbreaks in various EU MS have been in small backyard flocks, which are exposed to contact with wild birds. While most cases of AI H5N1 infections occurred in Germany and the NMS, occasionally infections have been discovered in France and the UK.

The impact of AI H5N1 on European poultry markets in 2007 has been fairly low because most outbreaks occurred in economically insignificant flocks. However, throughout 2007 EU poultry producers have kept production tight in order to avoid overproduction and major problems in case of important AI outbreaks. The production limitation was further mandated by the increased feeding costs and the expectations of increased imports as a result of the newly implemented TRQs, which resulted from the WTO case on poultry tariffs7. As a result, EU poultry prices remained at a high level and poultry production remained profitable. The continued threat of AI H5N1, however, hangs like a sword over the sector, which is very aware that no mistakes on biosecurity are allowed.
7 http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds269_e.htm

Other diseases

BSE/TSE

While BSE in cattle herds seems to be under control and incidences of BSE are rapidly decreasing in all EU MS, the appearance of increasing numbers of atypical TSE cases in sheep and goats have drawn the attention of the EC, which has stepped up the control measures for these small ruminants.

Classical Swine Fever

The newly acceded MS in 2004 have made good progress in eradicating CSF, although infected wild boar populations in remote mountainous areas occasionally continue to cause CSF outbreaks in pig farms. The newest MS, Bulgaria and Romania, faced more serious outbreaks of CSF in 2007 and are therefore not eligible to export pigs and pork to the EU. Neighboring MS are also very concerned to bring CSF under control through vaccination programs in these newest MS, because of the threat for their pig farms.

Animal Disease Notification System

EU MS report to the EC on animal disease monitoring and outbreaks through the Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS). Comprehensive and regularly updated data on the various disease situations in the different EU MS is available online at the ADNS website.

Further Reading

  • You can view this report and a list of reports from USEU Brussels and EU FAS posts about animal disease monitoring and outbreaks in the EU by clicking here.

January 2008