DEFRA has funded research on bluetongue which includes:
Studies on midge vectors, including surveys of abundance and seasonality, and biting rates.
Studies on use of insecticides to control vectors during transport, and the usefulness of housing in protecting livestock.
This research was used to define vector-free periods, and to provide advice about the conditions of movement licences regarding timing of movements and vector control.
This work was also used to contribute to the development of a model of bluetongue disease spread within and between farms. Collaborative work between the Meteorological Office and the Institute for Animal Health has resulted in tools to predict vector-borne disease incursions into the UK. This is currently being developed further.
The default control measures set out in legislation to combat bluetongue are aimed at preventing disease spread (through for example restriction of animal movement and through vector mitigation measures). Broadly, the controls can be summarised as follows:
Veterinary investigation on suspect premises, and restrictions which includes a ban on movement of susceptible animals on and off the premises.
On confirmation that bluetongue virus is circulating, restrictions remain in place and are extended to a zone of 20 km radius around the infected premises (IP).
Wider zone(s) must also be declared setting a protection zone and a surveillance zone (of at least 150 km radius around an IP).
Movement of susceptible animals out of these zones are banned except under licence (although animals can move freely within those zones) and we must implement surveillance programmes.
There is some flexibility in demarcating the zones (with Commission agreement), but various factors such as local geography must be taken into account.
We have an agreed policy for controlling incursions of any new serotypes under the existing UK Bluetongue Control Strategy. This strategy was reviewed recently in light of this year’s experience and to address risk from other serotypes, and was published on the DEFRA website on 1 December.
Details of the Control Strategy are currently available on the DEFRA website. Copies will also be placed in the House Library.
DEFRA continues to urge industry to consider the risks and check the health and vaccination status of animals when sourcing any animals, from within the UK or abroad.
Compensation is payable for all animals which are compulsorily slaughtered for the purposes of disease control under the powers provided for in the Animal Health Act 1981 and the Bluetongue Regulations 2008. Compensation is paid under the Bluetongue (Compensation) Order 2007, at the market value of animals immediately before they are slaughtered.
However, compensation is not payable when imported animals are slaughtered under the powers provided for in the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) (England) Regulations 2006.
Imported animals have been culled under these powers on a number of occasions where the veterinary risk assessment warranted this, most recently with BTV1 infected animals in Lancashire. Compensation is not payable under these circumstances.