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New Bluetongue Strain found in cattle imported to England

25 November, 2008


Sinn Féin Farming Minister Michelle Gildernew, MP, MLA, today reinforced her message to importers to think carefully before they import any cattle and sheep that may potentially have been exposed to the bluetongue virus.

The Minister's message comes after it was confirmed that five cattle legally imported to England from France have tested positive for BTV1. This is the first time the BTV1 strain has been found in animals imported to England. A further animal from the same consignment was culled as it also tested positive for bluetongue although tests were unable to confirm the strain.

Following confirmation from Defra that these animals would be slaughtered with no compensation, Minister Gildernew said:

"I continually urge those involved in the importation of cattle and sheep to think carefully and consider the potential consequences of bringing bluetongue here. Importation is a risky option as this latest case confirms. Until now we have focused on BTV8 but the rapidly changing position in mainland Europe, and the spread of BTV1, BTV8 and BTV6 reinforces the message that we cannot be careful enough."

The imported animals were part of a consignment of eight cattle from an area of France that has BTV1 and BTV8 circulating. Disease was confirmed following routine post import tests and Defra took immediate action to cull the animals based on veterinary advice.

Any susceptible animals imported here, except from the South, are required to be kept housed and isolated until they have been tested for all strains of bluetongue and the Department is satisfied that they do not present a risk. Anyone considering importing should contact their local DVO for advice.

DARD continues to monitor the situation carefully and is in regular contact with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Dublin to ensure that measures throughout the island are appropriate and are sufficient to protect our bluetongue free status.

Note to Editors

  1. DARD reviews and updates its Veterinary Risk Assessment on an ongoing basis in light of new developments, to ensure the measures in place are appropriate and timely.
  2. DARD is continuing to work in partnership with key stakeholders to mitigate the threat of Bluetongue incursion.
  3. Industry stakeholders have also called for farmers to act responsibly.
  4. The Bluetongue leaflet which outlines the clinical signs of Bluetongue is available on the DARD website. A Question and Answer guide to Bluetongue is available on the DARD website at www.dardni.gov.uk
  5. The Bluetongue virus is spread by midges which transfer the virus from animal to animal by biting them. The first detection of Bluetongue (BTV8) in Britain was reported on 22 September 2007. This is the first case of BTV1 in Britain.
  6. Advice on the treatment of animals and vehicles with insecticide is on the DARD website.

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