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Prev Vet Med. 2012 Oct 1;106(3-4):235-43. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2012.03.011. Epub 2012 Apr 7.

Bluetongue sentinel surveillance program and cross-sectional serological survey in cattle in Belgium in 2010-2011.

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Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre (CODA-CERVA), Coordination of Veterinary Diagnostics, Epidemiology and Risk Assessment (CVD-ERA), Groeselenberg 99, B-1180 Brussels, Belgium.


Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) emerged in Central Western Europe in 2006 causing a large scale epidemic in 2007 that involved several European Union (EU) countries including Belgium. As in several other EU member states, vaccination against BTV-8 with inactivated vaccines was initiated in Belgium in spring 2008 and appeared to be successful. Since 2009, no clinical cases of Bluetongue (BT) have been reported in Belgium and BTV-8 circulation seemed to have completely disappeared by spring 2010. Therefore, a series of repeated cross-sectional surveys, the BT sentinel surveillance program, based on virus detection in blood samples by means of real-time RT-PCR (RT-qPCR) were carried out in dairy cattle from the end of 2010 onwards with the aim to demonstrate the absence of BTV circulation in Belgium. This paper describes the results of the first two sampling rounds of this BT sentinel surveillance program carried out in October-November 2010 and January-February 2011. In addition, the level of BTV-specific maternal antibodies in young non-vaccinated animals was monitored and the level of herd immunity against BTV-8 after 3 consecutive years of compulsory BTV-8 vaccination was measured by ELISA. During the 1st sampling round of the BT sentinel surveillance program, 15 animals tested positive and 2 animals tested doubtful for BTV RNA by RT-qPCR. During the 2nd round, 17 animals tested positive and 5 animals tested doubtful. The positive/doubtful animals in both rounds were re-sampled 2-4 weeks after the original sampling and then all tested negative by RT-qPCR. These results demonstrate the absence of BTV circulation in Belgium in 2010 at a minimum expected prevalence of 2% and 95% confidence level. The study of the maternal antibodies in non-vaccinated animals showed that by the age of 7 months maternal antibodies against BTV had disappeared in most animals. The BTV seroprevalence at herd level after 3 years of compulsory BTV-8 vaccination was very high (97.4% [95% CI: 96.2-98.2]). The overall true within-herd BTV seroprevalence in 6-24 month old Belgian cattle in early 2011 was estimated at 73.4% (95% CI: 71.3-75.4).

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