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.

Italy: deficiencies in the bovine, ovine and caprine brucellosis eradication plans

The FVO (Food Veterinary Office) visited Italy from 7th to 15th October 2013 to evaluate the implementation of bovine, ovine and caprine brucellosis eradication programmes in the south of the MS. The audit team found severe deficiencies in the actual official controls system and in the national legislation. The report issued 11 recommendations to the competent Authorities.

“The objective of the audit was to evaluate the implementation of the bovine brucellosis and ovine and caprine brucellosis eradication programmes, approved by Commission Decision 2012/761/EU and associated animal and public health controls.

In addition to extraordinary measures foreseen for the eradication of brucellosis in the four Southern most affected regions, resources have been reinforced and further measures have been introduced in Calabria. Compulsory electronic identification in this region represent a major improvement in an environment of frequent illegal movements. The level of application and enforcement of the measures in Puglia was significantly lower, in part due to weaknesses in legislation in place at national level.

The complex movements between holdings, involving multiple dealers and fattening herds, of an unknown brucellosis status, represent a risk for the spread of the disease, which is insufficiently controlled, because of the non-application by the official services of the legal requirements for dealers, and the absence of channelling foreseen in the approved eradication plan.

Brucellosis cases are reliably detected at laboratories. Effective measures are taken in holdings when outbreaks are detected, but epidemiological investigations remain rudimentary and incomplete. The useful databases and tools available are not used to their full potential. The definition of epidemiological units in problematic areas was sometimes deficient, having a direct impact on the efficacy of the measures applied.

The specific zoonosis risk represented by the dairy establishments manufacturing products from non-pasteurised milk is insufficiently addressed by official controls. Illegal vaccination of adult buffaloes, with a potential to affect human health through milk, was detected; the current routine diagnostic tests are not adapted to identify such vaccinations.

The actions taken by the CA in the wake of the recommendations from previous FVO audits have not been implemented sufficiently to address most issues.”

Brucellosis is a contagious disease of livestock with significant economic impact.

The disease is caused by various bacteria of the family Brucella, which tend to infect a specific animal species. However, most species of Brucella are able to infect other animal species as well. It affects cattle, swine, sheep and goats, camels, equines, and dogs. It may also infect other ruminants, some marine mammals and humans.

The disease in animals is characterized by abortions or reproductive failure. While animals typically recover, and will be able to have live offspring following the initial abortion, they may continue to shed the bacteria.