Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Avoiding bluetongue complacency

For over a month now, Great Britain has been officially free from bluetongue (BTV8). Heralded as a triumph of partnership working between the government, farmers and vets in eradicating a serious disease, there is little doubt it has marked a major milestone for the industry and one that EBLEX welcomes.

The devastating effects of bluetongue speak for themselves - reduced milk yields, abortions, deaths and reduced fertility. Yet while the eradication of bluetongue has been cause for industry celebration, understandable concerns remain about the potentially negative side effects of being bluetongue-free. Not least, the prevention of farmers vaccinating their animals against the disease.

Animals entering Great Britain from bluetongue zones will continue to meet rigorous import conditions, and testing of animals imported from high risk countries will also continue. Current legislation, however, prohibits vaccination within a bluetongue-free zone and farmers have been urged to avoid complacency and remain vigilant and alert for potential outbreaks. Further advice from Defra on the issue can be read here.

With the last case of bluetongue in Great Britain being reported in 2008, nobody involved in the industry wants to see a return to the situation we faced with the 2007 outbreak. The Bluetongue Directive prevents animals being vaccinated unless a bluetongue zone is in place. The debate about permitting vaccination in bluetongue-free zones rages on with the Government pressing the European Commission to use the vaccination more flexibly. In the interim, vigilance clearly remains key and EBLEX will continue to support all efforts to keep the disease at bay in England.

You can find out more about bluetongue in our Sheep Diseases Directory.