New strain of bluetongue detected

Farmers are calling for a ban on livestock from France after a new strain of the animal disease bluetongue was found in Britain for the first time.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent

Last Updated: 8:24PM GMT 25 Nov 2008

Five cattle imported from across the Channel to Blackpool, Lancashire were found to have the disease.

Although bluetongue has been found in Britain before, this is the first time this particular strain, BTV1, has been found
.

The Government said there was no evidence the disease has spread. The cattle have been destroyed and the farm is under restrictions.

But farmers fear the new strain could cripple the livestock industry.

All previous cases of the non-contagious insect-borne virus in Britain were bluetongue BTV8 and most livestock in the country has been vaccinated against this strain.

Peter Kendall, president of the NFU, said no UK manufacturer had currently licensed a BTV1 vaccine and called on the government to ban imports from France as a precaution.

"The health and welfare of our cattle and sheep sectors must be our paramount concern and this recent incident of a batch of imported cattle testing positive for BTV1 is a major concern for all livestock keepers," he said.

"There is currently no evidence that the BTV1 virus is circulating in the UK so our main priority must be to keep this BTV serotype out of the country."

Mr Kendall said he would be speaking with Defra officials in the next few days to press his concerns.

Nigel Gibbens, the chief vetinary officer for England, said precautions were already being taken by cheking imports.

"This incident shows how important it is for farmers to consider potential disease risks when buying stock. Buyers need to consider how best to protect their own businesses and those of their neighbours and make sure they are clear about the stock they are intending to buy."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agr...-detected.html