AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- An estimated 35,000 goats are to be culled in the Netherlands under a program to halt the spread of Q fever, authorities said.
The culling, which is to be begin Monday, includes killing healthy goats, which is opposed by the Dutch Farmers Association, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported Saturday. Healthy goats and sheep can be vaccinated against the disease, the farmers association said.
The disease, which carries flu-like symptoms, is caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii, which is released into the air when pregnant goats or sheep miscarry. Since 2007, an estimated 2,000 people in the Netherlands have been infected with the disease and five have died.
Most of the infections have been reported in the southern province of Noord-Brabant, where the disease has been confirmed at 55 farms, most of them large-scale farms with a thousand or more goats each.
The Netherlands goat population rose to an estimated 374,000 in recent years when farmers turned to goats to avoid diseases being found in the large-scale farming of cattle, pigs and chickens, authorities said.