Measures to help stop the spread of bovine TB from high to low risk areas within the UK recognise the role of both wildlife and cattle movements in the spread of the disease.

Defra’s announcement of tough new rules to help stop the spread of bovine TB from high risk to low risk areas within the UK has been hailed as “a sensible approach” by veterinary associations.
Dairy cows in a fieldWith bovine TB endemic in major parts of the south-west, these new measures are intended to address growing concerns about the spread of disease northwards and eastwards into counties within the “edge area”.

According to Defra, the edge area includes Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and parts of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and East Sussex.

Defra’s new strategy includes:

  • Immediate skin testing of any herds in Cheshire and Derbyshire within a 3km radius of a farm with a new TB outbreak, and another test after six months.
  • Herds that have their TB free status suspended following skin testing will need to show two further clean tests.
  • Herds that have their TB free status withdrawn will all require gamma-interferon blood testing.
  • The breaking of cattle tracing system “links” between the edge area and high risk areas, which allow farmers to move cattle between two areas without reporting the movement.
  • Targeted use of the £250,000 funding for badger vaccination in the edge area.
  • New projects by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to estimate likely locations of badger populations in the edge area, and to assess how useful post mortems of badgers killed in road traffic accidents would be in estimating the levels of TB infection in local badgers.

The raft of new measures were announced yesterday (August 12, 2013) by farming minister David Heath, who said: “We are taking tough and decisive action on TB at the frontier of this disease to stop and then reverse the spread. The measures we are introducing this year will help protect vast areas of England from the scourge of TB and take a significant step towards our goal of eradicating TB within 25 years.”
BVA president Peter JonesIn response, both the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and its specialist cattle division, the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), claim to support the concept behind the edge area strategy.
BVA president Peter Jones said: “Targeting specific measures at the edge area surrounding the high incidence areas is a sensible approach if we are to stop the advancing spread of this disease further north and eastwards.
“The edge area strategy recognises the role of both cattle movements and wildlife in the spread of bovine TB, and the need for extra effort to understand the dynamics of infection in cattle, in badgers, and between the two species.”

He added: “Additional investment in our knowledge of the disease to help us understand what drives the advancing edge will also be crucial in our holistic approach to tacking this disease.”

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