2016-02-26   facebook twitter rss

NSA calls for Vigilance in face of Bluetongue Risk

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is calling for the whole livestock industry to be vigilant to bluetongue over the coming months and, given the current unavailability of vaccine, to have open dialogue about potential uptake.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, explains: “Low vaccine uptake in the past has made manufacturers understandably nervous about potentially producing a drug that no one will buy. The vaccine takes some time to produce so we must be responsible as an industry, think well ahead about the risk to our flocks and herds, and ensure clear communication between us, Government and animal health companies.”

Bluetongue

Bluetongue

NSA understands that all existing stocks of vaccine are owned by the French Government, which will hopefully help them contain the bluetongue BTV-8 virus. With the movement of live animals tightly controlled, the likely source of introduction to the UK will be infected midges coming across the channel from France, with the level of risk dependant on weather conditions, temperatures and the extent of virus circulation in France.

Mr Stocker continues: “As there are currently no stocks of vaccine available here in the UK we would expect vaccine manufacturers to be watching this situation very closely. NSA is in contact with the relevant companies and, while it is difficult to make predictions, we need a clear steer from our members and other sheep farmers on how we proceed.

“In the meantime, we have discussed the situation with colleagues in the Sheep Veterinary Society and collectively, while there is absolutely no need to panic, we would encourage all sheep and cattle farmers to be aware of the risk we face, contacting their vet immediately if there is any suspicion regarding their stock. Farmers should be extra vigilant given that most stock are likely to be immunologically naïve to the virus, and that experience in France suggests a low level of clinical signs.”

Defra has said vaccination levels of 80%, 50% or even 25% in bovine and ovine species by 1st May 2016 would have a significant impact on the rate of spread of disease – but there is little cost incentive for individual farmers to vaccinate at present, and no vaccine available to do so.

Mr Stocker concludes “While the reluctance of Defra to roll out a nationally-funded vaccination programme is understandable, NSA feels strongly that trade must be protected at all costs. We are told the risk to both export and internal trade is considered to be low at the current time but this must be closely monitored. This dilemma once again raises questions over the costs of industry protection being borne by a few, even though the decision to vaccinate may be based on the individual business.”

NSA

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