Outbreaks of bluetongue were reported from Burgas, Yampol and Slive regions of Bulgaria in July-August 1999 and later from Edirne region in Turkey as well as Euros and Rodopi in Greece. In Bulgaria, the diagnosis was confirmed by the Laboratory of Exotic Diseases in Sofia and the disease was officially reported to OIE in July. Later it was reconfirmed by the OIE Reference Laboratory, Institute of Animal Health (IAH), Pirbright Laboratory, United Kingdom and the isolated virus was serotype 9. Mortality of sheep in three affected provinces of Bulgaria was around 2 to 4 percent at the end of July, but morbidity was high, reaching 40 to 60 percent.
The initial action in Bulgaria was efficiently coordinated by the National Veterinary Services, in cooperation with FAO (AGAH including the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease), the European Union (EU), OIE and IAH. The first coordinating meeting with the participation of veterinary officers from Bulgaria, Greece, OIE and IAH took place in Burgas on 4 August 1999. The FAO mission verified the situation immediately (5-6 August 1999). The EU declared their immediate availability for supporting the preliminary consultancy missions (entomology), the cost of reference diagnosis, the procurement of disinfectants, insecticides and spray equipment. FAO is finalizing the preparation of an emergency Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project, "Emergency Control of Transboundary Diseases of Livestock in Southern and Eastern Europe", to cover bluetongue and other transboundary animal diseases and to include Balkan and southern European countries. The issue related to bluetongue and other priority infectious diseases of livestock and poultry in the region will be addressed by the First Balkan Conference of Microbiology (Microbiologia Balkanica 1999), Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 5-9 October 1999, with the participation of FAO/AGAH speakers.