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EU to tackle bluetongue

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Brussels, Oct 28 (Reuters)

The European Commission said last Tuesday it was proposing extra funding worth some 100 million euros ($125 million) in 2009 to help the tackle the bluetongue livestock virus.

“This commitment. . . would raise the total amount likely to be allocated to assist vaccination efforts in 2009 up to 160 million euros,” Androulla Vassiliou, EU commissioner for health said in a statement.

Vassiliou said the virus – characterized by inflammation of the mucous membranes, congestion, swelling and haemorrhages – was causing serious concern to farmers and member state authorities.

“It now affects large parts of the EU. Extensive vaccination will contain the disease and reduce its prevalence and its effects,” he said, adding the extra funding would cover up to 50 per cent of the costs of administering the vaccine.

Last month a new type of the virus normally found in Africa or Central America was reported in the east of the Netherlands, prompting an export ban.

The ban was extended to all ruminants, including cows, sheep and goats, in a 50-km (31-mile) radius around the affected farms, the Dutch Agriculture Ministry said.

Sheep are often the worst-affected animals, suffering from breathing problems, lameness, drooling and high body temperatures. In some cases, the animal’s tongue turns blue.

Bluetongue does not affect humans and there is no risk of contracting the disease by consuming milk or meat from infected animals.

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