The spread of Bluetongue disease is gathering pace in France, with a 32% rise in the number of cases in just over a week.
The disease was first picked up at the end of August, when 36 cases were detected on farms near the Belgium border in the north-east of the country. By the middle of September, this had increased to 253 cases, climbing steeply to 2246 cases by the end of the month.
Latest figures from the French ministry of agriculture this week put the number of cases at almost 3000, with 54 of the country’s 96 “departements” now affected.
Earlier this month the French government approved a €13.5m (£9.5m) aid package to help French farmers deal with the crisis, made up of low interest rate loans, compensation for the loss of animals and a blood testing scheme to enable animals to move out of the protection zone.
The EU commission is also drawing up plans for a mass vaccination programme to be introduced next spring, once a suitable vaccine has been developed.
Over 12,000 cases have been confirmed throughout northern Europe this year – mainly in Belgium, Holland and Germany.