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Preventing bluetongue spread

10/09/2008

Scottish producers must take every precaution in sourcing livestock to prevent the spread of bluetongue virus into Scotland.

Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, repeated his plea to farmers following confirmation of a further import consignment of bluetongue positive animals into England.

Half the animals in a consignment of 35 cows imported to Durham from Germany have proven positive for the virus.

Mr Lochhead said:

"While this is an isolated case among cattle in an imported herd, the need for vigilance cannot be stressed strongly enough.

"Bluetongue is a potentially devastating disease to the livestock sector and it important that all steps are taken to protect our industry.

"The decision by some producers to continue to source from high-risk areas beggars belief and is foolish given the potential damage that could be inflicted on our livestock industry. It is the responsibility of all farmers to take care when sourcing stock to ensure this country remains disease -free.

"The Scottish Government Industry Stakeholder Group has agreed that vaccination is best undertaken during the winter vector free period and that all practicable steps be taken to reduce the risk of disease spreading before then."

Charles Milne, CVO Scotland said:

"Vaccinating too early will increase the likelihood of disease incursion into Scotland as animals can move freely between Protection Zones and there is a delay before the vaccine becomes effective.

"I continue to urge animal keepers to do their bit and only buy stock of known health status."

This is the third incidence of bluetongue positive animals being sourced from the continent.

Protection and Surveillance Zones are put in place when disease is confirmed as circulating among livestock in an area. As this is an imported case of disease there is no requirement to impose zones.

The Scottish Government will continue to monitor the disease situation closely and assess if any zones are required to be implemented.

Only animals vaccinated by a vet and accompanied by a veterinary certificate of vaccination can more to Scotland from a bluetongue Protection Zone. Any movement of an animal that has been within the bluetongue restricted area in the previous 60 days must also be notified to the Scottish Government.

Any breach of regulations is subject to penalties of up to £5,000 and six months in prison.

Farmers should avoid sourcing animals from high risk areas wherever possible.