After widespread vaccinations in the Dordogne and across France, the Direction Départementale des Services Vétérinaires (DDSV) has found that it must restart its vaccination program against blue tongue – or fièvre catarrhale ovine – in an effort to eradicate remaining cases and prevent new ones. Dordogne cows and sheep are set to receive treatments at the end of winter and should help get animals ready for export to neighboring countries.
Strain 8 of blue tongue was first found in France in August 2007, followed by strain 1 later that year in November. Transmitted by biting midges, the disease is not dangerous to humans, even when consuming meat or milk from infected animals, but it can have dangerous or fatal consequences for the bovine.
Vaccinations for both strains 1 and 8 were already administered in the Dordogne back in July but those for strain 8 were not 100% effective. “We didn’t receive enough vaccinations in time,” says Director Vincent Cousin of the DDSV in Périgueux, “so it didn’t stop all the animals from getting sick.” Because of the shortage, strain 8 vaccinations continued into September. Strain 1 was efficiently warded off in July.
This winter, an estimated 100,000 sheep and 260,000 cows will be treated in the Dordogne against both strains. The procedure will take all of the veterinarians in the department, which is in the 50’s, to get the job done. “The length of time it takes depends on the availability of the veterinarians,” says Cousin. He adds that winter is the best time to perform the treatment since animals are already kept indoors and can be wrangled up easily for the operation.
The DDSV plans to administer the vaccinations every winter from now on to keep blue tongue at bay. If French authorities let the disease fester, trade relations with Spain and Italy could be compromised. Italy recently announced that it would not accept French cattle or sheep which had not been vaccinated against both strains of blue tongue.
“Each animal has a sort of passport,” says Cousin, “and every time they get a vaccination, they receive a stamp. Then they’re ready to be exported… But it doesn’t show whether the vaccination worked or not.”