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Bluetongue: new insights and lessons learnt
  1. Chris Oura, BVetMed, MSc, PhD, MRCVS
  1. Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright Laboratory, Ash Road, Woking, Surrey GU24 0NF
  1. e-mail: chris.oura{at}

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Chris Oura assesses northern Europe's recent experiences of bluetongue and considers the situation as things stand

I REMEMBER very well that hot day back in the summer of 2006 when a phone call came through to me from a colleague in the Netherlands saying that they would like to send us samples from some sheep that they had tested positive for bluetongue virus (BTV). We had known for some time that BTV strains had been steadily moving northwards into southern Europe; however, this massive jump as far north as the Netherlands really took us by surprise. To this day we still do not know where this virus came from, and more importantly, the route it took. Not knowing how it arrived makes it impossible to plug the entry route and stop the same thing happening again.

The strain of BTV (BTV serotype 8) that came into northern Europe rapidly proved itself to be a truly unique and nasty virus. The first unwelcome surprise was the severity of clinical signs seen in cattle and the second highly significant finding was that this virus was able to cross the placenta and infect calves/lambs in utero. This strain of BTV, depending of the stage of gestation that infection had occurred, was causing abortions, the birth of brain-damaged calves and the birth of normal …

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