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Bluetongue Disease

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the likelihood of cases of bluetongue arising in 2008 and subsequent years; (197992)

(2) what assessment he has made of the likelihood of bluetongue overwintering in the UK.

Bluetongue disease is spread from animal to animal by midges. During the winter, midge activity is at its lowest, and low temperatures mean that the virus is unlikely to replicate in the midges. As temperatures increase and midges become more active, it is likely that disease will re-emerge this year.

Experiences in northern Europe in 2007 showed that the virus reappeared in spring, with clinical cases being observed in June/July. Given our similar climate, we are preparing on the basis of a similar scenario in the UK this year.

The implementation of a vaccination programme could significantly reduce bluetongue virus circulation and limit its geographical distribution, contributing to its control and potential eradication at some point in the future. However, the future is uncertain and it is acknowledged that the UK may have to live with the threat of bluetongue for some time to come.

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 when he expects a bluetongue vaccination programme to begin. (197996)

DEFRA placed an order with pharmaceutical company Intervet to supply 22.5 million doses of BTV-8 vaccine for use in England and Wales. Intervet has indicated that the first batches of vaccine are expected for delivery in May 2008.