Bluetongue is a vector-borne viral disease of domestic and wild ruminants such as sheep, goats, cattle and deer.

It is transmitted through the bites of certain species of Culicoides midges. Currently there are 26 known serotypes of the virus, with different rates of virulence and mortality.

Bluetongue does not affect humans, but it can cause considerable damage to livestock populations. It is a transboundary disease, so national measures are insufficient to control its spread. 

Topics: Completed work

EFSA is currently updating its scientific advice on Bluetongue. Experts are revising the performance of monitoring and vaccination policies for control and eradication of Bluetongue; the options for safe trade of animals from infected zones to free zones, and the impact of different serotypes on animal health. 

June 2011 – A scientific opinion estimates the prevalence of the disease under different circumstances and the appropriate size of geographical areas for monitoring.

November 2008 – Experts assess the risk of transmission of the virus when animals are in transit through infected areas. The risk cannot be quantified due to a lack of data, but experts find that treating animals with insecticides or repellents may help to reduce the risk.

July 2008 – EFSA delivers advice on bluetongue with specific reference to the overwintering of the bluetongue virus and the measures that can be used to protect animals against attacks by vectors. Although no single mechanism is responsible for the survival of the bluetongue virus over winter, experts conclude that infected midges are the likeliest explanation.

April 2007 – The report of the global epidemiological analysis of the north-western European outbreak is published. It covers the origin, clinical signs, and spread of the disease.

2007 – EFSA provides weekly reports on the disease situation and an epidemiological analysis of the outbreak.

September 2006 – Shortly after a Bluetongue outbreak in Northern Europe, EFSA asks Member States to share national risk assessments and information they have on the disease.

EFSA provides scientific support on Bluetongue to the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Member States. Its activities focus on furthering scientific understanding of the dynamics and spreading patterns of the disease in Europe, and on providing a scientific basis for risk management measures. Examples of aspects investigated:

  • The epidemiology and clinical diagnosis of different strains.
  • The role of insects in spreading the disease.
  • The means to control the insects that spread Bluetongue, such as insecticides, repellents and other ways of protecting animals from insect bites.
  • The use of vaccines to reduce the risk of infection.
  • The risks of disease transmission during animal transport.

EU legislation lays down specific provisions for the control and eradication of Bluetongue.