A virus that is migrating northwards
Catarrhal fever, more commonly known as bluetongue, is a viral disease found in ruminants. Although all types of ruminants are at risk of infection, among domestic varieties it is sheep that are affected most severely. The disease is transmitted by the bites of a midge of the Culicoides family and in most cases it proves fatal. It used to be frequent only in tropical and sub-tropical regions, but in 1998 cases were reported throughout the Mediterranean Basin, subsequently gradually moving northwards through Greece, Albania and Bulgaria. In the summer of 2006 the first cases were reported in Belgium. With outbreaks in the Netherlands and West Germany, never before has the disease been recorded so far north.