After bluetongue disease was confirmed in a sheep in the Kleve district on the Lower Rhine, further outbreaks are to be expected, particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, according to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI). Until now, Germany was officially considered free of the disease.
The case in Kleve is not unexpected, as bluetongue disease serotype 3 (BTV-3) was first detected in the Netherlands in the provinces of North Holland and Utrecht at the beginning of September and has "spread rapidly since then," the FLI said. So far, over 1,000 outbreaks of BTV-3 have been detected there, mostly in sheep farms. Belgium also reported its first case. The FLI is the federal research institute responsible for animal health.
Bluetongue was no longer detected in Germany after 2021, and the Federal Republic was therefore officially disease-free. On Friday, the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that the suspected case in the Kleve district had proof of the disease from the FLI.
But so far only one sheep has been affected. The other animals at this location show no signs of the disease. The bluetongue pathogen is not dangerous for humans. It mainly affects sheep and cattle. In severe cases, animals can die; in the Netherlands, according to the FLI, up to 25 percent losses are currently recorded among infected sheep. There is no vaccine against serotype 3.
The stock in the affected company in Kleve was blocked by the authorities. Accordingly, no animals may be transported to other companies. According to the discovery, NRW is losing its so-called freedom status after two years without any cases of bluetongue disease. As a result, according to the announcement, animal owners must expect restrictions on the trade in cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminants.
Pet owners who observe symptoms of bluetongue in their animals are urged to contact their veterinarian or the veterinary office. According to the NRW Ministry, an infection with bluetongue was last detected in Germany in February 2021. It was only in June 2023 that Germany was again recognized by the EU Commission as disease-free with regard to bluetongue disease, it said.
Bluetongue is a viral disease of ruminants that is passed on via small, blood-sucking mosquitoes. Sick sheep can suffer from, among other things, reluctance to eat, apathy and fever; the disease can also be fatal. Sometimes a blue coloring of the tongue can be seen in sheep.