GB Bluetongue status revised

News that the European Commission is set to reclassify Great Britain's bluetongue status from a BTV8 protection zone to a Lower Risk Zone (LZR) has been welcomed by industry.

According to the cross-industry JAB group, the new classification will go a long way to help keep Great Britain free of bluetongue as all animals will now have to meet tighter criteria before importation.

The move by the European Commission, which comes into effect on 12 June, means tougher controls on animals being brought into Great Britain from countries affected by bluetongue. New rules mean that any bluetongue susceptible animals being brought in from other countries affected by BTV8 will have to meet more stringent vaccination conditions before importation.

JAB spokesman John Mercer said: “This move will help keep disease out. This is absolutely crucial as it ensures that bluetongue will not return to this country through animal moves from those areas and in turn hamper our chances of eventually moving to freedom.

“There are two main ways bluetongue will enter Great Britain, either through wind-borne incursion of infected midges or through imported animals. While we are limited in our ability to control the wind-borne threat we are able to reduce the risk of incursion via imported stock. We have seen imports levels rise dramatically in the last six months and this move to tighten up controls is vital in protecting the livestock sector and will hopefully help us one day meet our aim of gaining disease free status."

However, he urged farmers to continue to vaccinate their animals: "Bluetongue is still circulating on the continent and there is a possibility that it may blow across to Great Britain as it did in 2007 and therefore it cannot be stressed enough that vaccination remains the only effective way to protect against bluetongue. It is vital livestock keepers continue to vaccinate their animals. I would also urge farmers to remain vigilant for signs of the disease and report any suspicions immediately to the local Animal Health Office.”

Food and Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: "‘This is a great result that speaks volumes for the work done by farmers and vets, who’ve worked with the government to achieve this Lower Risk Zone status for bluetongue. It will help protect our livestock producers but they must remain vigilant and anyone importing stock must make sure that they meet the new requirements for importation."

Nigel Gibbens, chief veterinary officer, said: "The news from SCoFCAH that Great Britain has achieved Lower Risk Zone status is testament to the excellent cooperation between industry and government demonstrated from the earliest days of 2007’s bluetongue outbreak. We have remained in a bluetongue Protection Zone since the first case was confirmed and the efforts of responsible livestock owners and vets in vaccinating stock and the surveillance work by Animal Health, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the Institute for Animal Health has allowed us to successfully apply for this revised status.

"But we cannot become complacent, and I’d encourage farmers and vets to continue to vaccinate their livestock and remain vigilant for disease while additional targeted surveillance continues in the higher risk areas."

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