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New Bluetongue Status For Britain

14 years ago

4th June, 2010 00h00

Veterinary associations have welcomed the European Commission announcement that Britain’s bluetongue status will be reclassified as a Lower Risk Zone (LRZ) for bluetongue virus (BTV8) and are asking members to get the message out to clients as soon as possible. Britain is currently part of the BTV8 Protection Zone, which covers much of Europe, and will become a LRZ on Saturday 12th June 2010. The LRZ is a new classification which requires stricter vaccination conditions to be placed on bluetongue-susceptible animals being imported. These stringent conditions are:The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and its specialist divisions the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), the Goat Veterinary Society (GVS) and the Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS) are urging veterinary surgeons to inform clients who import susceptible animals of the changes to import rules, which will take effect on 12th June. As part of the JAB (Joint campaign Against Bluetongue) campaign group, the veterinary profession is also urging farmers to continue to vaccinate their livestock due to the small but ongoing risks of re-infection from wind-borne spread of the disease, and the risk of importing infected foetuses. The profession believes that a small but significant number of pregnant animals could be carrying a BTV-infected foetus but still test negative in the post-import blood test. The newborn animal could infect the local midge population and restart the circulation of the disease. Once the disease is in the midge population it can spread huge distances in short periods of time. Commenting, Nicky Paull, Past-President of the BVA and member of Defra’s Bluetongue Core Group, said: “The move to a Lower Risk Zone is fantastic news for Britain and another step in the direction of disease-free status. It is something that the veterinary profession has fought for and we are delighted that the new arrangements mean that vaccination can continue in Britain. “With imports to Britain increasing at a high rate, we know that the biggest threat to the country was importation of the disease. That is why the additional vaccination measures for imports are vital in protecting British livestock. “Veterinary surgeons need to inform clients who import susceptible species of the changes to the imports rules as soon as possible and direct them to further information on the Defra website or at the local Animal Health Office.” Gareth Hateley, Chair of the BCVA Notifiable and Exotic Diseases Working Group, said: “The move to a Lower Risk Zone must not be seen as an excuse to relax vaccination measures. Although it does greatly reduce the likelihood of importing the disease, that threat still remains from the small, but significant, risk of an infected foetus being imported. “The threat of wind-borne re-incursion also exists and once the disease is in the midge population it can spread very quickly.” Nick Clayton, Hon Secretary of the GVS, said: “Vaccination remains the key to protecting British livestock. Vaccination now will protect your livestock, but if you wait until disease is present, you will be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. In an emergency vaccine production may not keep pace with demand if BTV is confirmed in the UK. “Vets need to encourage farmers to maintain a high level of immunity in the livestock under their care. If a ‘breakdown’ occurs, awkward questions are certain to be asked." Paul Roger, Bluetongue Stakeholder Representative for the SVS, said: “This is a very important step for Britain and we must pay tribute to the hard work of the Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, and his team in Defra. “The veterinary profession wholeheartedly welcomes the move to a Lower Risk Zone and the additional protection it affords Great Britain.”

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