DEFRA has announced changes to the rules surrounding vaccination for bluetongue virus, meaning vaccination can now take place in unaffected areas as well as affected areas.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced changes to the rules surrounding bluetongue virus (BTV) vaccination.

A sheep showing BTV symptoms of a swollen face and nasal dischargeFollowing a decision from Brussels, DEFRA wrote in a statement sent to Vetsonline: “The EU’s decision allows farmers to protect their animals from BTV in areas which are disease free. Previously, only animals in disease areas could be vaccinated.

“[This] means that farmers can make decisions about whether they want to vaccinate their animals to protect them from BTV in case of a future disease outbreak.”

BTV was first identified in northern Europe in 2006. The virus affects most ruminants, including sheep, cattle, camelids, goats and deer. Sheep, however, are the most severely affected and have the highest mortality rate.

Symptoms include high fever, excessive salivation, swelling of the face and tongue and cyanosis of the tongue. Nasal discharge and stertorous respiration may also be apparent. The sickest animals usually die within a week.

Since the appearance of BTV in the UK in 2007, vaccination in affected areas has taken place and stringent checks have been introduced to ensure animals imported into the country are free of the disease. There are also plans in place to deal with the disease if it ever came back into the country, such as movement restrictions, which would be employed in the event of a case being identified.

DEFRA believes the current risk from BTV in the UK is “very low“. The new rules come into force this Friday (August 24, 2012).

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