Great Britain’s bluetongue status is to be reclassified from a BTV8 protection zone to a Lower Risk Zone (LRZ). Vets are being urged to inform clients who import susceptible animals of the changes to import rules.
Great Britain’s bluetongue status is to be reclassified from a BTV8 protection zone to a Lower Risk Zone (LRZ) for BTV8. Vets are being urged to inform clients who import susceptible animals of the changes to import rules.
Britain is currently part of the BTV8 Protection Zone (which covers much of Europe), but will become a LRZ on June 12, according to an announcement from the European Commission today (June 4).
The LRZ is a new classification which requires stricter vaccination conditions to be placed on bluetongue-susceptible animals being imported from countries affected by the disease. These conditions are:
- vaccination plus a 60-day wait; or
- vaccination plus a test 14 days after onset of immunity; or
- booster vaccination within the time stated on each vaccine’s data sheet.
Additionally, pregnant animals will also need to meet vaccination conditions before insemination or mating.
The move has been welcomed by supporters of the Joint campaign Against Bluetongue (JAB), which claims that livestock keepers will benefit greatly from the decision, as it will provide greater protection from imports, while vaccination can continue as normal and exports will remain virtually unaffected.
JAB spokesman John Mercer explained: “We have seen imports levels rise dramatically in the last six months and this move to tighten up controls is vital in protecting the livestock sector and will hopefully help us one day meet our aim of gaining disease free status. As part of the approval process DEFRA will have to carry out monthly surveillance and take blood samples from stock across the South of England – and JAB is encouraging livestock keepers to fully co-operate with Animal Health should they be asked to participate in the sampling programme.”
The move has also been welcomed by the veterinary profession. As part of the JAB campaign group, the BVA and its specialist divisions (the British Cattle Veterinary Association, the Goat Veterinary Society and the Sheep Veterinary Society) are urging vets to inform clients who import susceptible animals of the changes to import rules.
However, the profession is urging farmers to continue vaccinating their livestock due to “small but ongoing” risks of re-infection from wind-borne spread of the disease, and the possible import of pregnant animals carrying a BTV-infected foetus.
BVA past-president Nicky Paull, a member of DEFRA’s Bluetongue Core Group, said: “The move to a lower risk zone is fantastic news for Britain and another step in the direction of disease-free status. It is something that the veterinary profession has fought for and we are delighted that the new arrangements mean that vaccination can continue in Britain.
“With imports to Britain increasing at a high rate, we know that the biggest threat to the country was importation of the disease. That is why the additional vaccination measures for imports are vital in protecting British livestock. Veterinary surgeons need to inform clients who import susceptible species of the changes to the imports rules as soon as possible and direct them to further information on the DEFRA website or at the local Animal Health office.”
UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said the news was “testament to the excellent cooperation between industry and government demonstrated from the earliest days of 2007’s bluetongue outbreak”, but concluded: “We cannot become complacent, and I would encourage farmers and vets to continue to vaccinate their livestock and remain vigilant for disease while additional targeted surveillance continues in the higher risk areas.”