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Bluetongue Disease

Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risk of an outbreak of bluetongue disease in the United Kingdom; and what discussions she has had with her colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office to prevent the spread of this disease to Northern Ireland. [130404]

My officials have consulted experts at the Institute of Animal Health on the risk of an outbreak of Bluetongue in the UK. The Institute of Animal Health is both the National and European Union reference laboratory for the disease. At present the risk is considered to be very low.Bluetongue is active in countries around the Meditterranean basin. It is transmitted by midges of Culicoides species. However, the disease has recently spread a little further north and the possible causes of this move are being investigated. The main vector of disease (Culicoides imicola) has not been found in the UK.A Bluetongue Control Strategy for the United Kingdom is already in place and is available on the Defra website at diseases/notifiable/disease/bluetongue_control_strategy. PDF Defra staff have worked closely with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (DARDNI) on the preparation of contingency plans as required under Directive 2000/75/ EC. These Contingency Plans can be obtained from:Defra—via the Defra website—http.V/ disease/bluecontin.PDF and a copyhas been placed in the main Defra library.DARDNI—from the Animal Disease Control Branch, Dundonald House, Belfast.