The epizootic haemorrhagic disease, which can be fatal in cattle, has been detected for the first time in Europe, French health agency Anses reported on Friday.
The arrival of the biting midges that transmit the virus that causes the disease is “a consequence of climate change,” the agency noted.
The first cases of the viral disease, which is not transmissible to humans, were detected in the autumn of 2022 on the Italian island of Sardinia and then in Sicily, Anses said in a note on its website. Outbreaks were then spotted in Andalusia in southern Spain.
“In cattle, this potentially fatal disease results in fever, anorexia, lameness and respiratory distress,” the agency said.
The disease, which mainly affects white-tailed deer and cattle, was discovered in the USA in 1955. The virus, transmitted by biting midges, “has since spread to Asia, Australia and Africa.”
“About 15 years ago we never imagined that the disease could one day arrive in Europe,” researcher Stéphan Zientara is quoted by Anses as saying. “Its spread is a direct consequence of climate change, which allows vector midges to survive in our regions,” he explained.
According to the scientist, “the most likely hypothesis is that midges were transported across the Mediterranean by the wind.”
No vaccine is available against the strain of the virus spotted in Europe.
Surveillance has been set up in France “with the aim of analysing any suspect animals,” particularly among cervids, Anses said.