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Chronic Botulism


by Prof. Friedrich Weißbach

There has been no end of scary reports in recent past. For 10 years now dairy cows have been suffering from a new kind of herd disease. This disease proceeds insidiously and usually results in devastating animal losses and thus existential needs for afflicted farmers. At the same time this ailment is not recognized as a notifiable disease. In consequence no payments are covered by the Animal Health Fund. Farms affected by this disease are nowadays found in most of all regions of Germany.

The name of this disease is „chronic botulism”. A two-day seminar attended by 170 participants regarding this topic took place in September 2010 at the Agricultural and Veterinary Academy (AVA) in Horstmar-Leer. During the seminar farmer Heinrich Strohsahl from Hohenaspe (Schleswig-Holstein) gave a harrowing account of the „controlled perishment“ of his entire stock of 450 dairy cows (as well as their progeny). A few months earlier the Stuttgarter Zeitung had already published an article with the heading „Death Awaits in Famer Schiele’s Stable”. The article recounted the plight of a farm in Gerpfenhausen (Baden-Württemberg), which lost 99 cows and 25 calves in short succession. Furthermore, a more recent case was reported in the paper „Free Press“. It concerns the family Kuder of Thossfell (Vogtland), which lost nearly 600 animals in a mere few years. Veterinary treatment of the disease is difficult and rarely successful. In consequence one wonders what more must happen before people develop an awareness of this threat and start to seriously invest in disease prevention.

For a long time only acute poisoning by an extremely powerful bacterial toxin (formed by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum) was regarded as „classical“ botulism. This botulinum toxin...

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