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Cattle: Animal Diseases

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps his Department has taken to reduce the incidence of anthrax in cattle. (269115)

The incidence of anthrax in cattle in the United Kingdom is low. There have been six confirmed incidents of anthrax (with seven cattle affected) in the last 10 years. The last confirmed incident in cattle involved two cattle in Wales in April 2006. This needs to be viewed in the context of a UK cattle population of circa 10 million cattle.

During the first three quarters of 2008-09 official veterinarians and veterinary officers undertook 3,862 anthrax investigations (in all species) where anthrax was a possible differential diagnosis (generally unexplained sudden death) with no confirmed cases detected. Forth quarter figures are still being collated. Investigation and control of anthrax disease is one of Animal Health's performance targets on which it reports to DEFRA's Food and Farming Group and during its quarterly liaison meetings with DEFRA.

The number of investigations undertaken suggests that awareness of the need to report possible suspect cases is high among the farming and veterinary professions.

DEFRA's Veterinary Exotic Notifiable Diseases Unit have recently been reviewing their desk instructions relating to anthrax and Animal Health are currently developing a revised comprehensive training package for use in training new and existing official veterinarians and veterinary officers. In parallel with this Animal Health are looking at reviewing their Operations Manual instructions to incorporate some of this material and identify any areas where instructions could be improved/updated (e.g. in terms of contingency planning for disposal of suspect carcases, such as compiling a register of local authorities with access to portable incineration equipment etc.).

Information about anthrax is available on the DEFRA website.