asked Her Majesty's Government:
What contingency plans are in place to deal with a possible outbreak of African horse sickness in the United Kingdom; and [HL3005]
What assessment they have made of the impact of a future United Kingdom outbreak of African horse sickness on the country's equine industry. [HL3006]
The severity of the disease and the controls to monitor and restrict movement of horses could significantly affect the equine industry in the UK. Introduction of the disease could be either through the windborne carriage of infected midges from the near-European continent if disease were to be confirmed there, which is not the case at present, or through the illegal introduction of infected equines. It is a requirement that owners who suspect an equine of being affected with African horse sickness notify Animal Health (formerly the State Veterinary Service).
European Union rules permit imports of horses only from countries or regions which are free from African horse sickness. Pre-export tests are required for all horses from free countries in Africa or the Middle East.
Council Directive 92/35 provides for compulsory notification and the setting up of a protection zone of at least a 100-kilometre radius around an infected premises. This, together with a surveillance zone of at least a further 50 kilometres, would have to remain in force for at least 12 months.
African horse sickness is included in The Specified Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order 1992 to implement the slaughter requirements of EU Council Directive 92/35/EEC, which lays down control rules and measures to combat African horse sickness.
The wide-ranging research work on bluetongue and associated diseases is undertaken by Pirbright (in containment facilities), and some other research (not requiring containment) is carried out in a number of other facilities, such as universities. The total number of scientists engaged in this area of work is around 36. This figure can fluctuate a little with the allocation of part-time staff and changes in student and post-doctorate numbers.
The knowledge base on bluetongue and African horse sickness is predominantly centralised at Pirbright, and the laboratory co-operates internationally in respect of its work on this area. This is reflected by its status as a European Community reference laboratory for bluetongue and is the OIE reference laboratory both for bluetongue and African horse sickness. All research undertaken at Pirbright is published.