27/08/2008

Fresh Bluetongue Cases Reported

Two more cases of animal disease bluetongue - which mostly affects sheep (pictured) - have been detected in imported rams, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said.

It is understood the rams were imported from the same premises in a blue-tongue restricted zone in France.

The rams were found on premises near Lewes, East Susex, and Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Defra said the new cases are the first in the UK this summer and were detected as a result of post-import testing on all animals coming from the Continent which are susceptible to the disease.

However, Defra also said there is no evidence to suggest the disease was circulating in the local midge population in the areas where the infected animals were found.
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Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Alick Simmons said: "Bluetongue has recently been confirmed as circulating this year in the Netherlands and large areas of France, despite vaccination programmes being undertaken.

"Similar re-emergence of disease in the UK would also not be unexpected in the coming weeks."

Mr Simmons added that the cases "emphasise the need for farmers to be aware of the risks importing animals from within restricted zones".

A mass vaccination campaign against the disease began in April.

Already 21.1 million doses of vaccine have been made available to farmers.

With the Protection Zone (PZ) already covering the south of England the latest cases will not impact on the roll out of the vaccine and Defra remains on course to extend the PZ to Cumbria and the North West in September.

Bluetongue is transmitted between animals such as cows and sheep by midges.

There are no reports of human transmission.

(DS)

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