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BELGIUM – An outbreak of the bluetongue virus in sheep and cows has spread to parts of the Netherlands and Germany in the first-ever cases of the insect-carried viral infection in northern Europe. Export bans were imposed on livestock from Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of western Germany after Belgium reported 46 cases. The Belgian and German outbreaks are both close to where bluetongue was reported in the Netherlands and are located within a 150km-radius surveillance zone which was created around the Dutch outbreak. Within the standstill zones officials established around the infected farms, all ruminants must be kept inside at night, all movement of live animals on or off farms is prohibited, and the use of insecticide is compulsory in an effort to eradicate the culicoides mites which carry the disease. The infection causes fever and swelling in ruminant animals, turning their tongues blue, but it does not affect humans. It can be fatal, especially for sheep. – Alan Harman

AUSTRALIA – According to reports from major fashion groups Morrissey and Sportscraft, technology is lifting wool blends to a new level of demand. Australian Wool Innovation quoted Sonia Wong, general manager of Retail Brands for the Apparel Group, which handles the Sportscraft brand, as saying Merino is fantastic. “We are able to achieve a wearable, lightweight garment which is favoured by consumers,” Wong said. Morrissey communications manager Cat Burke agreed, saying designers are again recognising the versatility of Australian Merino wool. “Consumers want a ‘purer’ feel to what they wear,” she said. Burke said Morrissey uses Merino as its yarn of choice for their fine-gauge knits and suits. “Technology has caught up with wool blends,” she said. “These fabrications make Merino one of the most versatile yarns available, especially with our uniform clients.” – Alan Harman

AUSTRALIA – Celebrity conservationist and host of the television show Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was killed on 4 September during a diving expedition off the cost of Queensland. He was filming an underwater documentary on the Great Barrier Reef when the accident occurred. Paramedics said the cause of death was a stingray strike to the chest. – Gavin Grobbelaar

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