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The Bluetongue Protection Zone in England
will shortly reach the Scottish Border:
but Scotland still has no vaccine

James Irvine

Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie

Filed 27 July 08

Defra is due to extend the Bluetongue Disease Protection Zone in England on Monday 28th July so that there will be no Surveillance Zone. The Protection Zone is to be expanded with the provision of vaccine to the free areas as soon as more supplies are delivered from Merial.

The series of Defra's maps of the Protection and Surveillance Zones over the past four weeks has been conveniently brought together in the Warmwell Website (Click Here to View).

Current EC rules continue to insist that there must be free trade of livestock between all Bluetongue Disease Protection Zones within the EU, including from Member States where the disease is known to be active and where vaccination programmes have not been completed. There will therefore be a high risk of Bluetongue Disease being brought to the Scottish border through legitimate animal movements, as well as by midges.

Previously the authorities argued that the risk of Scotland getting bluetongue disease this summer was small, because of the relatively slow rate at which midges are thought to travel via the wind. All that assurance comes to naught when free movements of infected livestock could shortly bring the virus to the Scottish border, The midges would than have no distance to travel before Scotland's bluetongue free status is breached.

Worse still, the policy adopted by Defra for Bluetongue vaccination is that it is done on a voluntary basis, with the latest batches of vaccine supplied in 100 ml bottles. There is no way of knowing for sure what the effective uptake of the vaccination programme in England actually is.

Even worse again, when Scotland does get a supply of vaccine, as soon as the first dose is given to a single animal a Protection Zone will be declared. It takes two doses and two months for vaccination to be fully effective in cattle.The National Beef Association Scottish Council is mounting a petition to the EU Parliament to get a derogation that would prevent the movement of livestock into such a Protection Zone until such time as vaccination in the area had a chance of being effective (1). But the slowness of process within the EU and the EC is such that there will be little chance of that becoming effective in time for the current viral threat. Hopefully, it may be in place by the time the next viral threat occurs.

This is a truly extraordinary way of controlling the spread of a highly virulent livestock virus, the threat of which has been known since 2002 and manifestly obvious since 2006. Remember, Bluetongue Disease serotype 8 arrived in England in September 2007, although the epidemiological modellers at the time said that it would be very unlikely.



1. National Beef Assocation Scotland Petition to the European Parliament
Click Here to see and to sign