EFSA and Member States to work closely in sharing knowledge on Bluetongue

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has invited Member States to co-operate in the collection of scientific data and analysis of Bluetongue. Bluetongue is a viral non-contagious animal disease transmitted by certain insect species[1] which is present in Southern Europe, and which has now been confirmed in Central Europe. According to EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW Panel), the EU will best benefit from an integrated and comprehensive approach to this disease, as individual national approaches alone are unlikely to be sufficient. The route through which such diseases have been introduced into the EU is often not clear, and a multi-disciplinary approach is required to be able to identify the source, ranging from tracing of live animals to bringing together more sophisticated knowledge of virus and vector[2] biology.

EFSA has asked Member States to provide any information they have on the disease and to share national risk assessments, in particular those countries which have been affected by the disease. EFSA will collect and co-ordinate this information and develop a co-operation network of EU Member State experts and National Agencies involved in risk assessment on Animal health, pooling together all of European and international scientific information on the disease. Depending on the availability and robustness of scientific data, EFSA will invite Member State experts to exchange views with the AHAW Panel’s Working Group on Bluetongue on the available data and develop scientific advice on the containment of Bluetongue in Europe. EFSA will also work in close collaboration with the European Commission, the Community Reference laboratory for Bluetongue and other world reference laboratories.

According to EFSA’s AHAW Panel, in order to develop effective scientific advice and provide technical support to the European Commission and the Member States, it will be necessary to:

  • harmonise epidemiological data collection systems and sampling procedures
  • develop a method for the quick exchange and sharing of information between Member States
  • investigate the origin of the introduction of Bluetongue serotype 8 into the EU

Concerning the introduction of Bluetongue into the EU, the AHAW Panel believes that it is important to have a better understanding of the conditions associated with the spread and possible persistence of the disease and of the role of vector species other than Culicoïdes imicola involved in the spread of infection. It will also be necessary to analyse where and how Culicoides vectors, such as midges, act in the various EU regions and surrounding areas of the EU.

Notes to editors

Bluetongue is an animal disease transmitted from animal to animal by midges belonging to the Culicoides genus. It is not of concern to human health. In August 2006, the first ever outbreak of Bluetongue above the 50°N parallel was reported by the Dutch authorities and this was later followed by reports of outbreaks from Belgium, Germany and France.

[1] More specifically, midge insects belonging to the Culicoides genus.
[2] A vector is any agent (person or animal or microorganism) that carries and transmits a disease. In the case of Bluetongue the most common vectors are midge insects belonging to the Culicoides genus.

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