Russian watchdog accuses EU of covering up dangerous animal disease

The head of Russia's animal health and food safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergei Dankvert believes the European Commission is covering up cases of bluetongue virus (BTV) serotype 14 and is demanding an immediate video conference with his European counterparts to clarify the situation.

"We have every reason to suspect that the European Union's veterinary service has for a long time been hiding the discovery of bluetongue serotype 14 in a number of European countries, particularly Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia," Dankvert told Interfax.

Prior to this only the more common BTV serotype 8 was mentioned. "We have a vaccine for this virus," Dankvert said. The serotype 14 was not previously reported."

Dankvert said his suspicions were based on the results of in-depth monitoring conducted by the watchdog.

"The problem is also in the fact that our European colleagues did not notify us as importers about the spread of the virus, but hid this information, quietly signing veterinary certificates" guaranteeing the safety of products shipped to Russia, Dankvert said.

With such an attitude, Rosselkhoznadzor believes it cannot accept the guarantees provided by the European veterinary service, "especially concerning companies included under these guarantees in the list of suppliers to Russia," he said.

"The guarantees are worthless if they aren't based on open and honest actions. And as far as we understand, all this [dissemination of information - ed.] is being suppressed by Brussels itself," Dankvert said. "We would like to make sure that this is not the case, but there are more reasons to believe that this is true than reasons for the opposite," he added.

He also said that on Friday the watchdog will send a letter to the EC asking to immediately hold a video conference to clarify the situation.

"The situation is so dangerous that if there won't be an adequate response then we should shut down all trade in livestock with Europe," Dankvert said.

The Europeans are covering up the outbreak of the dangerous disease from the international community as well, Dankvert added.

The first cases of BTV in Russia were reported last year. The source was believed to be livestock imported from Germany.

BTV is a viral disease of domestic and wild ruminants, mainly sheep but also goats and cattle. The disease has been reported on all continents, and is spreading northward. When there are outbreaks of BTV in a previously unaffected area, morbidity is as high as 90 percent and mortality can reach 70-90 percent. Prevention is effected primarily by keeping the disease from being brought into the country.

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