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Agriculture: Bluetongue

Volume 704: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for any future outbreaks of bluetongue disease, in particular the BTV-1 strain that is affecting cattle in France; and whether there are any products available to control that disease. [HL5630]

Before bluetongue was detected in the UK, Defra worked in partnership with industry to produce the bluetongue control strategy which sought to limit the impact of an incursion of bluetongue in the UK. We are currently working with experts and industry to update the bluetongue control strategy to reflect the latest available information on all bluetongue serotypes and the lessons learnt from this year's roll-out of protection zones and vaccine for BTV-8.

Defra remains vigilant to the threat of BTV-1 incursion. To that end, Defra is closely monitoring the situation in Europe. Post-import testing of cattle and sheep is carried out to detect BTV-1. If BTV-1 is detected in imported livestock, our short-term strategy will be to slaughter affected animals, establish control zones with movement restrictions, and carry out investigations, in the same way as when BTV-8 first entered the UK in September 2007. This will continue to be our policy unless evidence suggests that BTV-1 is circulating in the UK.

However, the longer term strategy for BTV-1 will depend on how the virus spreads in Europe and the movement restrictions imposed in affected member states.

If BTV-1 continues to spread to the point where incursions via midges become more likely, vaccination may become more important as a control strategy.

There are no vaccines currently licensed for use against BTV-1 in the UK. However, Defra is in discussion with potential vaccine providers, the veterinary profession and industry stakeholders about plans for 2009.