Tests for foot and mouth on Sussex farm

There are fears that foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) may have left Surrey as a 3km temporary control zone was set up last night around a premises near Haywards Heath on the border of East and West Sussex.

Tests are ongoing.

Defra is still waiting for test results on four premises in Surrey where animals were slaughtered yesterday on suspicion of FMD. Currently there are eight confirmed cases.

Despite these potential new outbreaks, Defra has eased restrictions for farmers in some southern counties. Kent, Essex, East Sussex, Southend, Thurrock, Medway, Brighton and Hove have been removed from the FMD risk area. From midnight last night these counties now fall within the FMD low risk area which means that livestock keepers in these areas will be able to move animals from farm to farm. Pigs will also be allowed to move an unlimited distance.

Meanwhile the number of cases of bluetongue has now reached 19 in an outbreak the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has called a "bitter blow". Animals are no longer being slaughtered after the government confirmed the viral disease is circulating between cattle and midges in eastern England.

No vaccine or treatment exists for bluetongue and up to 70% of infected animals die. It is hoped a freezing winter will help destroy the midges that spread the diease and the NFU said it hopes a suitable vaccine will be ready for next year.

Peter Kendall, president of the NFU, said: "Bluetongue is a nasty disease, which represents a very real threat to the welfare of farm animals, as well as to the economics of livestock farming, so we have to do what we can, and what we are required to do by EU law, to seek to contain it.

"We shall be working with Defra to determine boundaries for the BT zones that cause the minimum possible disruption to the normal movement and marketing of livestock.

"Beyond that, the best hope for eradicating the disease lies in the development of a vaccine that will protect livestock against this particular strain. We understand that this may become available next year and we will be pressing both the EU and the international animal health authorities to lift all bluetongue-related restrictions once a programme of vaccination has been successfully implemented."

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