EU rules to monitor bluetongue spread

The European Commission has secured approval for new Euro­pean Union legislation that will force EU member states to ­improve surveillance, monitoring and publicity surrounding cases of bluetongue.

With the disease rampaging across northwestern Europe, the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) has agreed to make monitoring compulsory in all infected countries, while bluetongue-free member states must undertake "surveillance proportionate to the risk".

National authorities will have to notify the EC about livestock restriction zones established following an outbreak, which will be listed by Brussels. It said an EC note would "better inform the public". Furthermore, the new rules clarify how and when animals can be moved within and from restricted zones.

The committee approved the creation of a bluetongue restriction zone in four English counties - Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire - following the recent cases in Suffolk. And it also extended bluetongue restriction zones in France, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Portugal, due to further outbreaks.

Meanwhile, EC officials are drafting technical regulations on how vaccinations should be used to fight bluetongue. This follows pressure from the Netherlands, Belgium Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and Slovakia, which called at an EU Council of Ministers' meeting for a "proactive common approach to develop and approve a vaccine capable of curbing bluetongue as rapidly as possible". A council note added: "The serious financial consequences which arise from animal movement bans covering very large areas are putting considerable stress on farmers."

The French government called for additional EU subsidies for meat producers hit by the disease.

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