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Minister welcomes new EU measures on Bluetongue

9 April, 2008


Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has welcomed the new measures agreed by the European Commission on movements of cattle and sheep out of bluetongue-restricted zones.

The proposals could allow Member States to ban until the end of this year the importation from bluetongue restricted areas of all cattle and sheep over 90 days old unless they have been vaccinated or unless natural immunity to the disease can be demonstrated in such animals.

The Minister confirmed that the suspension of imports of female breeding cattle over 12 months and female breeding sheep over 6 months from Bluetongue Restricted Zones entering the North, which was imposed on 1 March 2008, will remain in place until the new measures have officially come into force.

The Minister said,

"I will be updating the Executive tomorrow on this issue. In addition, my officials have, at my request, written to the Commission, asking them to arrange publication as soon as possible in order to regularise the position. Also we intend to work closely with the industry and farming unions so that all measures to keep Bluetongue out of Ireland are maintained."

The Minister repeated her advice to farmers to think very carefully before importing susceptible animals that may have been exposed to disease and to remain vigilant for signs of the disease.

She also confirmed that she and her officials were maintaining close contact with the Minister Coughlan and officials in the Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Dublin to ensure an all-island approach to the threat posed by the presence of bluetongue throughout Europe and Britain.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. The Minister, following agreement from the Executive, imposed a temporary suspension on the imports of female cattle over 12 months and female sheep over 6 months with effect from 1 March as a result of emerging science from the North Antrim case.
  2. As a result of evidence emerging from the North Antrim case and increasing concerns over the controls contained in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1266/2007, which lays down the specific measures for control of Bluetongue, the Commission has agreed various amendments to this Regulation. These amendments do not officially come into force until they have been published in the Official Journal.
  3. Bluetongue is an insect-borne viral disease to which all species of ruminants are susceptible, although sheep are most severely affected. However, cattle are the main mammalian reservoir of the virus and are very important in the epidemiology of the disease. It is characterised by changes to the mucous linings of the mouth and nose and the coronary band of the foot. Bluetongue is declared to be present in a country when it is confirmed by laboratory tests that the Bluetongue virus (BTV) is circulating in the animal population.
  4. Anyone who knows or suspects that any animal or carcase in his possession, under his charge or being examined or inspected by him is infected with Bluetongue is required under the Bluetongue Order (NI) 2008 to notify their Divisional Veterinary Office.

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