What do we know about the virus affecting cows and detected for the first time in France?

What do we know about the virus affecting cows and detected for the first time in France?

2023-09-21 19:22:47

After the cases recorded at the end of August by the Spanish authorities, around a hundred kilometers from the border, the imminent arrival of the disease in France was no longer in much doubt. The Ministry of Agriculture announced this Thursday the detection of the first national cases of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a viral disease which affects domestic bovids and wild deer. Three farms are affected for the moment, two in the Basque Country and one in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

20 Minutes takes stock of this animal disease, so far “exotic” and of the first preventive measures taken by the authorities.

What exactly is MHE?

We might as well say it straight away, according to the authorities, the MHE virus “is not transmissible to humans”. In ruminants, it is transmitted between animals via midges – females more specifically – biting and blood-loving midges of the Culicoides family, already at the origin of the spread of bluetongue (BFT) in ruminants. flocks of sheep. With very similar clinical effects: fever, weight loss, oral lesions and difficulty breathing. However, it generates “very low mortality”, specifies the ministry.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against MHE, at least not against the strain identified by specialists from ANSES, the National Health Security Agency.

Where does this disease come from and why now?

This is not a new disease. It is particularly well known in the United States, where it was discovered for the first time in 1955 and where it affects cattle farms but also the white-tailed deer population. It also circulates in Australia, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. However, its arrival in Europe is extremely recent. The first continental case appeared in October 2022 in Sardinia, the following in Sicily, then in Andalusia in mid-November.

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This arrival on the other side of the Mediterranean could be linked to climate change. “Its expansion is a direct consequence of climate change, which allows midge vectors to survive in our regions,” explained last May, in a ANSES publication, virologist Stéphan Zientara. “Even if it is possible that the virus was introduced by the transport of infected cattle, the most likely hypothesis is that the midges were transported across the Mediterranean by the wind,” continues the specialist. This would explain the simultaneous appearance of the disease in several places in southern Europe.” Especially since the strain identified in France than that detected in Tunisia in 2021.

What consequences for breeders?

MHE is regulated at European level. Affected countries have the obligation to declare themselves and put in place measures to monitor and prevent the spread. If the MHE does not result in restrictions on the movement of animals within the national territory. “On the other hand, indicates the ministry, the regulations prohibit the sending to other member states of the European Union for breeding purposes, of any ruminant coming from farms located within a radius of 150 km around each home. »

With the application of this “safeguard” radius, the ban measure applies to the entire Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrénées but also Landes, Gers, Haute-Garonne and Ariège. Gironde, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Tarn de l’Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales are also affected, but only in part.

The direct shipment of livestock to another EU country remains authorized if it is for slaughter.

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