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Protecting Scotland’s Livestock From Bluetongue

30 March 2011

UK - Three years ago, Scotland and Great Britain's response to the threat of Bluetongue virus (BTV) united our livestock producers, politicians and vets in the common goal of keeping our country free from this devastating livestock disease.

Scotland’s 2009 compulsory vaccination programme against the most threatening strain of the disease (BTV 8) delivered maximum levels of immunity. The vaccination campaign was reinforced by the strong industry-led voluntary curb on imports of livestock from high-risk areas, effectively creating a fortress against disease incursion.

That effort has, to date, been successful. The disease situation across GB has been stable since BTV-8 was detected in an imported animal in November 2008. There was no evidence of circulating disease in GB in 2009 and 2010 and there have been no positive cases found as a result of post import testing.

The whole of GB is now part of a Lower Risk Zone for BTV8, but we cannot become complacent. We encourage all livestock farmers to remain vigilant for disease. At the same time, additional surveillance is continuing as we move GB towards getting Freedom Status with vaccination in the near future.

We note and welcome the progress that has been made in Europe, particularly Northern Europe, with vaccination programmes and surveillance resulting in a number of countries achieving disease freedom. However, some countries in Southern Europe are some way from disease-free status, including France, which is still regarded as having endemic status for BTV with no compulsory reporting required. Cattle and sheep are regularly imported to GB from France and although recorded incidence of BTV in France was low in 2010, stakeholders are urging farmers and import agents to take care and follow all necessary protocols.

We remind all producers that such care in sourcing livestock is still crucial to protect Scotland's BTV status. During the summer period, when midges responsible for transmitting the virus are active, risks are heightened and sourcing from areas where BTV may still be present could, if mistakes are made, jeopardise our disease freedom. Our advice to all livestock keepers and agents is to avoid importing susceptible animals from high-risk BTV countries during the active midge season. If we were to import disease and our level of risk regarding BTV change for the worse, then producers would need to consider returning to a unified vaccination strategy. That is something we wish to avoid.

If producers and import agents are compelled to import livestock during the summer, then they must continue to ensure that any stock sourced from outside GB complies fully with EU trade rules since our first line of defence is the health certification issued at the point of origin.

In addition, livestock keepers are reminded that they must report any suspicion of Bluetongue to their local Animal Health Office.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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