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Description - Control measures - Notification and health situation - Community Reference Laboratory - Press releases


Bluetongue is a non-contagious, insect-transmitted, viral disease of sheep and wild ruminants. It is not known to affect humans.
Disease characteristics
The disease is characterised by inflammation of the mucous membranes, congestion, swelling and haemorrhages. Sheep are generally the worst affected, while cattle and goats do not usually show any clinical signs of disease and can carry the virus for a certain period of time and transmit it to other ruminants.
Transmission takes place via bite of certain species of Culicoides midges, which are biological vectors. It is not transmitted by direct or indirect contact between animals in the absence of the insects.
Sources of virus
Infected Culicoides.
The virus is present in a broad band of countries extending approximately between 40°N and 35°S. The bluetongue virus has been shown by serology to be present in regions where the Culicoides is present (e.g. Africa, the Americas, Australia, the Middle East and some countries of southern Asia and Oceania).
In Europe, in 2000, Bluetongue was confirmed in sheep flocks at the Baleares, Sardinia, Sicily, the south of Italy and Corsica. The vectors may also be found in many areas of the European Union in the hot season.

Bluetongue can cause spectacular disease outbreaks and is placed in the OIE (Office International des Epizooties) List A disease category.

For more details, click on the OIE technical card on Bluetongue.

Read the Questions & Answers on Bluetongue

Control measures

The measures to control and eradicate the disease include:

  • control of vectors (use of insecticides in the animal premises and in the areas where these insects live, insect repellents onto animals, mosquitoes nets, etc.);

  • restriction to movements of live ruminants from affected areas to non-infected regions where the vector is present;

  • use of vaccines.

Council Directive 2000/75/EC lays down specific provisions for the control and eradication of Bluetongue. pdf

Implementation measures of Directive 2000/75/EC :

  • Movement restrictions
    Following the extension of the outbreak in the Mediterranean Member States, the Commission adopted measures to restrict movements of live animals from the infected regions :

    Commission Decision 2005/393/EC, on protection and surveillance zones in relation to Bluetongue Updated 18-08-2006

    This Decision :

    • demarcates restricted zones
    • establishes conditions for exemption to the exit bans from those restricted zones
    • establishes conditions for transit through those zones


  • Vaccination
    Vaccination programmes in Italy have been adopted at the Commission level, with the financial support of the Community ( Decisions 2001/141/EC pdf, 2001/433/EC pdf and 2002/545/EC pdf).

  • Import controls
    Measures have been adopted to control the importations of live animals and their products from third countries affected by a Bluetongue outbreak on their territory :

    Commission Decision 2003/845/EC

    Notification and Health Situation

    Bluetongue is a notifiable disease, according to Council Directive 82/894/EEC EEC of 21 December 1982 on the notification of animal diseases within the Community.

    Click on ADNS for a description of the notification system and the latest health situation table.

    Community Reference Laboratory

    The Community reference laboratory (CRL) for Bluetongue is the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright .


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