AMSTERDAM Dec 9 Dutch authorities will start
slaughtering sheep and goats at farms which have been hit by the
highly infectious disease Q fever to stop it spreading to
humans, Dutch ministries said on Wednesday.
Q fever is caused by a bacterium that is mostly transmitted
to humans from goats and sheep, especially during delivery of
young, and the number of human cases of the disease has risen to
about 2,200 currently from about 170 in 2007.
On farms that have vaccinated animals, all animals would be
tested for Q fever and those contaminated will be culled, Dutch
Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg said.
On farms that have not carried out vaccinations, pregnant
animals will be culled in addition to contaminated animals,
"The measures we have taken so far have helped, such as the
obligation to vaccinate in some areas. Therefore we can expect a
strong decline of cases with humans in 2011. But we also want to
do the maximum to limit the consequences next year," she said.
The measure affects 55 farms in the Netherlands, but Verburg
declined to estimate how many sheep and goats would be killed.
There were 1.2 million sheep and 355,000 goats in the
Netherlands last year.
Q fever is usually not visible with contaminated goats and
sheep, but they can lead to premature or still births.
For humans, the illness causes flu-like symptoms treatable
with antibiotics, but can in rare cases be fatal. Six people who
had other diseases or were weakened, have died this year while
having Q fever. Pregnant women have a small chance of having a
miscarriage or premature birth.
Dutch authorities had already taken measures to prevent
spreading of Q fever, such as vaccinations programmes for farms
holding more than 50 sheep or goats, and restrictions on
transport to and from contaminated farms.
(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Keiron Henderson)