FVO report – Greece – Brucellosis situation critical for sheep and goats

This report describes the outcome of an audit carried out by the Food and Veterinary office in Greece from 12 to 16 October 2015. The objectives of the audit were:

  • to determine whether eradication measures are in compliance with planned arrangements, implemented effectively and suitable in achieving objectives and
  • to evaluate whether prior epidemiological information, knowledge and experience in implementation of the Programme, have been used effectively in setting objectives and targets of the next year Programme.

The Programme measures such as vaccination and sampling are not implemented to the extent planned. There are significant differences between regions. Under-implementation of vaccination significantly affects its effectiveness in reducing the disease prevalence. Measures on positive holdings are generally implemented according to the Programme, but their effectiveness is compromised by a failure to test all eligible animals in infected herds and insufficient controls of movements of animals from such herds. This may result in prolonged duration and spread of infection. The suitability of the current Programme is hampered by a significant mismatch between the Programme targets and human resources available for its implementation. The Central competent authority had made efforts to overcome the problem of staff resources, e.g. the involvement of private veterinarians but solutions are not operational yet.

Monitoring and review of the progress of the Programme has improved. However, there has been no adjustment of the Programme objectives and targets in order to take into account the available resources. The lack of analysis of existing data on risk factors for introduction and spread of B. melitensis and in particular of the impact of non-vaccinated male animals, prevented adjustment of the Programme measures to the epidemiological situation.

The control of sheep and goat brucellosis is compromised by absence of reporting and analysis of abortions. This results in a lack of detection or late detection of positive holdings, which is often triggered by the investigation of cases in humans. The fact that 65% of human cases are associated with consumption of unpasteurised dairy products and the same proportion of cases come from farming and non-farming communities, indicate that the zoonotic risk is insufficiently controlled in infected dairy herds.

Additional constraints that hamper the elimination of infection in infected herds arise from vaccination of adult animals. This limits the use of serological tests. However, around 50% of animals are vaccinated at the age of 3 to 6 month, meaning they are eligible for serological testing when older than 18 months. However, they are not tested in positive herds. Effective actions are required as regards updating the national herd database and in particular registration of very small holdings to ensure that planning and evaluations are based on reliable data.

Considering the current level of achievements of the Programme objectives and targets on one hand, and available human resources on the other, the Programme and its implementation needs major adjustments to deliver its intended results.

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