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Farmers beleagured by FMD and bluetongue

By Rod Addy , 12-Sep-2007

The presence of bluetongue virus at a farm near Ipswich, Suffolk and another case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) near Petersfield, Hampshire, have dealt UK farmers a cruel blow.

A cow on a rare breeds farm was diagnosed with the Serotype 8 strain of the bluetongue virus, which is transmitted by midges. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said it could take weeks to confirm if the disease was circulating in Britain.

Work is underway to create a vaccine against bluetongue. However, it is feared it will not be available before next year. The disease affects ruminants, including sheep, cattle and goats, causing fever, mouth ulcers, swollen heads, and turns infected animals' tongues blue.

Livestock movement restrictions have been imposed on the Ipswich holding and the affected animal has been slaughtered.

Elsewhere, a further case of FMD has been confirmed at a farm on the West Sussex and Surrey border near Petersfield, Hampshire, indicating the disease is spreading. The other outbreaks have all been identified at holdings in the same area of Surrey. A 3km protection zone has been set up around the farm.

The case represents the sixth infected premises since August 3, when the virus resurfaced for the first time since the 2001 crisis at a farm near Guildford, Surrey.

DEFRA said UK exports of raw meat and dairy products had been banned. However, meat produced before 15 July 2007 or meat of non-GB origin may be exported if clearly identified as such and kept separate, since production or importation, from banned meat. Such meat must be accompanied by appropriate certification.

Treated meat, treated dairy products, and other animal by-products can also be exported if accompanied by certification.

A range of certificates (including “30 day” certificates) allowing export to EU countries are available from Animal Health Divisional Offices.

A suspected outbreak of FMD at a farm in Solihull in the Midlands on September 19 turned out to be a false alarm after laboratory tests returned a negative result.