Spatial Transmission Characteristics of the Bluetongue Virus Serotype 3 Epidemic in The Netherlands, 2023

Gert Jan Boender, Thomas J. Hagenaars, Melle Holwerda, Marcel A.H. Spierenburg, Piet A. van Rijn, Arco N. van der Spek, Armin R.W. Elbers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A devastating bluetongue (BT) epidemic caused by bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) has spread throughout most of the Netherlands within two months since the first infection was officially confirmed in the beginning of September 2023. The epidemic comes with unusually strong suffering of infected cattle through severe lameness, often resulting in mortality or euthanisation for welfare reasons. In total, tens of thousands of sheep have died or had to be euthanised. By October 2023, more than 2200 locations with ruminant livestock were officially identified to be infected with BTV-3, and additionally, ruminants from 1300 locations were showing BTV-associated clinical symptoms (but not laboratory-confirmed BT). Here, we report on the spatial spread and dynamics of this BT epidemic. More specifically, we characterized the distance-dependent intensity of the between-holding transmission by estimating the spatial transmission kernel and by comparing it to transmission kernels estimated earlier for BTV-8 transmission in Northwestern Europe in 2006 and 2007. The 2023 BTV-3 kernel parameters are in line with those of the transmission kernel estimated previously for the between-holding spread of BTV-8 in Europe in 2007. The 2023 BTV-3 transmission kernel has a long-distance spatial range (across tens of kilometres), evidencing that in addition to short-distance dispersal of infected midges, other transmission routes such as livestock transports probably played an important role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number625
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • bluetongue
  • BTV-3
  • spatial kernel
  • spatial spread
  • transmission


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