Bluetongue strikes again in England

Further outbreaks of bluetongue have been detected in England, and industry leaders have repeated warnings that vaccination is the only protection against infected European imports.

The department for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) announced that 18 imported cattle on premises near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, tested positive for bluetongue originating from within the BTV8 Restricted Zone in Germany.

Defra deputy chief veterinary officer Alick Simmons said: "This incident shows how important it is for farmers to consider potential disease risks when buying stock, regardless of source. Buyers need to consider how best to protect their own businesses and those of their neighbours and make sure they are clear about the stock they are intending to buy."

The National Beef Association (NBA) confirmed rumours of possible infected cattle in areas of Cumbria and Scotland, imported from an area in southern France where the BTV1 virus is present, and called for caution among producers.

Christopher Thomas-Everard, NBA chairman, said: "There is no vaccine available in the UK to protect stock from BTV1, so the cattle from France have been tested while still on the lorry.

"Each of these incidents is a sharp reminder that importers should not accept word-of-mouth affirmation from suppliers that the animals carry no bluetongue risk and protect their reputations, and their own cattle, by insisting on a vaccination certificate that has been signed by a vet."

After England and Wales were made Protection Zones on 1 September, approximately 30 million doses of vaccine have been made available for farmers, although Defra warned that it would take up to six to eight weeks from now to get livestock sufficient protection from the virus, if they have not already been vaccinated.

Simmons added: "The threat from bluetongue is present and real, as shown by the most recent import cases. Vaccination, as a preventive measure, is therefore more important than ever, so the message to the industry remains clear: don't hesitate, vaccinate."

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