Bluetongue disease in Bulgaria: animal deaths runs into thousands, costs mount

Deaths of animals in Bulgaria because of the Bluetongue disease outbreak are running into the several thousands and there have been new reports of outbreaks in various parts of the country.

On September 27, reports said that more than 1000 animals had died in the region of Sliven and about 20 000 were infected.

Plamen Penchev, head of the regional directorate of food safety, based in the town of Sliven – about 300km east of Sofia and 100km from Bourgas on the Black Sea coast – said that measures against the disease had included spraying against mosquitoes and treating animals with various medications.

Two days earlier, there was official confirmation of outbreaks of Bluetongue disease in two villages in the Vidin region in north-western Bulgaria.

Food Safety Agency officials were following up reports from 19 different locations in the region, according to regional directorate head Dr Tsvetan Topchiev. The disease had been found in sheep and goats and by that date, two goats had died.

On September 15, there were promises that the following week would see the first payment of compensation for the deaths of animals from Bluetongue disease.

Vassil Grudev, caretaker Agriculture Minister, said that 200 leva (about 100 euro) per animal would be paid, local media reported.

Grudev said that vaccines against Bluetongue disease would cost about three to four million leva. Bulgaria wants the European Commission to grant the country at least 75 per cent of this amount.

Bulgaria will have to pay the remainder, as well as the costs of storage of the vaccines.

Boiko Sinapov, head of the union of breeders, said that Bulgarian breeders were suffering very large losses.

At the beginning of September, Bulgarian National Radio reported that Food Safety Agency officials said that the Bluetongue disease would not go away soon.

Professor Boiko Likov, head of the risk assessment office of the agency, said that a new strong third wave of the disease was expected. However, the disease could subside in November, Likov said.

According to the BNR report, by August 20 more than 3000 sheep had died in Bulgaria because of Bluetongue disease.

The breeders’ union said that the direct and indirect losses from the disease would reach 50 million euro. Part of these losses would come from the ban on the export of livestock that would be in place from six months after the eradication of the last outbreak of the disease.

Breeders have called on Bulgaria’s prosecution to investigate what they allege is criminal negligence on the part of Bulgaria’s authorities in responding to the disease. They underlined that in May, the European Food Safety Agency had issued a warning of a serious risk of an outbreak of Bluetongue disease in Bulgaria.

Under the now-departed Bulgarian Socialist Party government, the response of the agriculture ministry was slow and of the sum requested by the then-agriculture ministry to respond to the disease, only half was granted.

Bulgaria’s veterinarians protested in front of the agriculture ministry headquarters in Sofia on September 25, for the third time in two months.

One of the key grounds for their protest was a lack of correct policy on the stockbreeding sector.

“There never has been such a failure in the history of the Bulgarian veterinary service, an infectious diseases seizing the entire territory of the country,” the vets were quoted in media reports as saying.

(Photo: mattgudat/



The Sofia Globe staff

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