New Strain Prompts Calls For Vigilance

UK - NFU Scotland is calling on Government and industry to bolster its defences following the discovery of a new strain of bluetongue disease in Europe. Bluetongue is a devastating viral infection of cattle and sheep, with the virus transmitted between animals by midges.
calendar icon 28 October 2008
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This weekend, authorities have confirmed the discovery of a new viral strain, BTV6, on three farms in Holland. This strain is normally associated with Southern Africa and Central America. This means that three strains of bluetongue are currently active in Europe at this time with cases of BTV1 and BTV8 increasing daily. Last autumn, BTV8 was discovered in England. Although no new cases of disease have been discovered in England this year, a number of imported animals have been brought in to the country guaranteed to be free of disease but which have subsequently tested positive.

Each strain of bluetongue requires a specific vaccine. Scotland’s own proactive vaccination campaign against BTV8 starts on 3 November but the presence of two other strains on mainland Europe has led to calls from NFU Scotland for Scotland to better protect its border.

NFU Scotland Vice-president Nigel Miller said:

“Bluetongue is a horrible disease which can bring death and devastation to any cattle herd or sheep flock that becomes infected. BTV8 presents the greatest threat to Scottish livestock and I urge producers to take the time to discuss the forthcoming vaccination campaign with their vet.

“While that campaign will protect our livestock from one particular strain of the disease, we cannot emphasise enough that the vaccine will not be effective against BTV1 or the new danger of BTV6. We must do everything within our powers to ensure that the threat from bluetongue does not escalate further.

“We want Scottish Government to examine all the options available to it to prevent the importation of animals from high risk areas in Europe into Scotland. Current safeguards that animals from Europe are free from disease are not working, the system is breaking down and the threat from bluetongue is growing not receding. All animals imported from Europe continue to be tested for all strains of bluetongue but the threat is such that further action should be considered.

“Producers must also play their part. It may be perfectly legal to import stock from Europe providing certain tests are completed and guarantees provided. We do not believe that this is enough or that the system is working. Scotland does not have bluetongue and does not want bluetongue. Producers who hide behind the existing rules and continue to recklessly import stock from mainland Europe run the risk that their legacy for Scottish agriculture will be as the farmer who first imported the bluetongue to this country.”

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