Blue tongue classed as official outbreak

The five cases of bluetongue virus found in animals in the UK have been declared an official outbreak by Defra.

Deputy chief vet Fred Landeg said test results had shown the disease, which is transmitted by biting midges, was circulating among livestock.

So far there have been five confirmed cases of the disease. All the animals which tested positive have been culled.

The latest case was found at a farm near Burstall in Suffolk.

Landeg said at a news conference today that laboratory results and further cases of bluetongue disease in Suffolk indicated bluetongue was circulating in the animal and the midge populations in the county.

He said: "We had a meeting of our bluetongue expert group, and taking that advice and given the recent experience in northern Europe, I can now confirm we do have bluetongue virus circulating in this country."

He added : "Bluetongue is spread via midge vectors, rather than animal to animal. This means animals infected with Bluetongue will not be compulsorily slaughtered from now on. There is no vaccine currently available, however we will consider vaccination in the event that a suitable authorised inactivated vaccine becomes available."

Defra said in line with the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy and European law, a 20km Control Zone is being put in place around the area in East Anglia where cases have been identified to date.

Ruminant animals will be able to move within the Bluetongue Control Zone, but not out of it, except to slaughter in the Bluetongue Protection Zone.

In addition, a 150km Bluetongue Protection Zone covering parts of the counties from Lincolnshire to Sussex will be put in place. Ruminant animals will be able to move within the Bluetongue Protection Zone but not out of it.

These Bluetongue zones will replace the Bluetongue Temporary Control Area set up on 25 September.

Secretary of State for Defra, Hilary Benn said: "This is clearly very bad news for the farming industry. Our priority is to do everything we can to contain this outbreak which is why we already had in place precautionary restrictions and have today announced further measures. We are determined to continue to work closely with the farming industry and the farmers affected for whom this is a very difficult time."

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