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Bluetongue Disease

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to fund research into blue tongue vaccines other than those for the BTV-8 strain. (192489)

DEFRA currently has no plans to invest in vaccines for use in bluetongue serotypes other than serotype 8 (BTV-8). This strain arrived in East and South East England in September 2007.

We will keep this under active review in the light of vaccine developments and veterinary risk assessment of the likely spread of other serotypes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the recent mild winter on the likely prevalence of blue tongue. (192490)

Bluetongue disease is spread from animal to animal via the bites of midges.

During the winter, midge activity is at its lowest, and low temperatures mean that virus does not replicate in the midges. Therefore, because of a very low risk of disease transmission, we declared a vector-free period on 20 December 2007. Based on the assessment of meteorological data and historic vector (midge) trapping, this period will end on 15 March. As temperatures increase and midges become more active, we may expect to see the disease re-emerge this year.

Experiences in Northern Europe in 2007 showed that the virus reappeared in June/July. Given our similar climate, we are preparing on the basis of a similar scenario in the UK this year. Cases of bluetongue identified during the winter, and subsequent amendments to the restricted zones mean that we are confident that the disease is currently contained within the protection zone.

Further information about our control and vaccination strategy is available on the DEFRA website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department’s strategy is for informing livestock owners that blue tongue vaccines will be available if there is a deterioration in the current blue tongue situation. (192491)

The UK’s Bluetongue Emergency Vaccination Delivery Plan, published on 18 February, sets out how mass vaccination can be achieved through a voluntary approach. This is coupled with an industry-led campaign promoting the importance of vaccination.

DEFRA will play an active role in supporting the communications strategy.