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Neosporosis caused by Neospora caninum, paratuberculosis (or Johne's disease) caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), and Q fever caused by Coxiella burnetii are three infectious cattle diseases that have significant health and economic impacts (Woldehiwet 2004, Haddad and others 2005, McKenna and others 2006). Whereas Neospora and Q fever in cattle are mostly associated with reproductive disorders, such as abortion (Woldehiwet 2004, Dubey and others 2007), MAP causes chronic enteritis and progressive weight loss (Tiwari and others 2006). Q fever, moreover, is a zoonotic disease. For MAP, a possible relationship has been suggested with Crohn's disease in humans, although this remains controversial (Over and others 2011).
In Belgium, a cross-sectional serological survey of cattle, the winter screening, is carried out during the housing period in winter every year. This winter screening provides an ideal opportunity for the simultaneous monitoring and surveillance of several infectious diseases in the Belgian cattle population. As no recent seroprevalence data were available for N caninum, MAP or Q fever at the regional or national level in Belgium, it was decided to test for those diseases during the winter screening conducted between November 2009 and February 2010. For this survey, a total of 1100 cattle herds were selected for sampling by simple random sampling using the survey select procedure in SAS V.9.2 (SAS Institute Inc, Cary, North Carolina, USA). The sampling frame consisted of all 31,499 cattle herds registered in the Belgian animal identification and registration system (SANITEL) after exclusion of veal holdings and herds with no animals present at the time of selection. The median and mean herd size of the 1100 selected herds was 44 and 74 animals, respectively. Within each herd, a target number of 10 animals between 12 and 24 months of age, and 20 animals over 24 months …