March 3 2008 ~ "It has now emerged that maternal transmission is another possible means.."
Michelle Gildernew, the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister is quoted on www.farminglife.com
"I am confident SCOFCAH will introduce effective measures in due course, but, I feel I have to anticipate the out-workings of this committee, and with my Executive colleagues am acting decisively now to protect our industry from this disease." Northern Ireland's unilateral import controls were taken for a limited period up to March 6. Mrs Gildernew said that the additional import controls will be "regularly reviewed in line with emerging science and developments in the EU Commission". SCOFCAH (the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health) will meet again next week.
March 3 2008 ~With farmers and vets preparing to vaccinate, Jack Davies and Alistair Driver look at the key questions surrounding vaccination.
The Farmers Guardian:
"...the PZ will gradually be extended to allow more farmers the opportunity to purchase vaccine...The south coast may be given priority.... a risk-based approached, targeting those areas most at risk from disease. The intention is ultimately to expand the PZ to the whole of England and vaccinate accordingly as soon as supplies are available...". (Read in full). It is unclear as yet how vaccination in Wales, (only 2.5million doses ordered) and Scotland (12 million doses expected to be ordered this week) will proceed. Vaccine will be available in 50ml (50 doses) and 20ml (20 doses) bottles and a rough estimate of cost is about 60p per dose. "The cost may vary with veterinary fees and with some farmers requiring supervision, the cost may increase further..."
March 1 2008 ~ " The European Commission is now looking at changing its rules on animal movements... " Belfast Telegraph
Northern Ireland's Belfast Telegraph, in its article, Imports row over disease outbreak says that Assembly members have questioned why the latest bluetongue emergency restrictions took so long to impose — and why they will last for less than a week. (until March 6.) The Agriculture Committee vice chairman, Tom Elliott, has asked why the Irish Republic has been operating more stringent import restrictions while Ulster farmers have been left exposed to the bluetongue threat.
March 1 2008 ~ " The need for vaccination and its urgency have been underlined.. ..since the onset of the epizootic in Europe. Already one-season-too-late, significant additional losses may still be prevented. This relates in particular to receptive, not yet infected areas, where the vaccine should be applied before summer 2008" - Mod.AS at ProMed today in a comment following the posting of a summary of the Bluetongue situation throughout Europe (but only as of 8 Jan 2008) and, more particularly, yesterday's FG story about the expected U turn on vaccination in Scotland (below) It seems extraordinarily unfortunate that the urgent need for vaccination in "not yet infected areas" is only now being contemplated by Scotland and by others. We made this point over four months ago in the blog Scotland the Brave when Scots farming bosses were saying they "could not be party to a policy which could expose the Scottish livestock industry to this most dreadful disease" - ie by extending the Protection Zone into Scotland in order to be allowed to vaccinate.
February 29 2008 ~ DEFRA has extended the bluetongue protection zone
following confirmation of the disease on one farm in Buckinghamshire and another in Hertfordshire. There are now 88 confirmed premises in the UK
February 29 2008 ~ Intervet to supply France
Intervet, who has already received firm orders from the UK and the Netherlands, has today received an official order from France to supply 27 million doses of inactivated vaccine against serotype 8. It will supply the Bovilis BTV 8 vaccine to France as soon as possible, . Intervet is currently "optimizing the production process" and is doing the utmost to speed up the first deliveries "for mid-spring". The vaccine has been developed for sheep and for cattle - goats are not yet included in official statements. Intervet says (informal communication), "Our product is effective in both sheep and cows. In both vaccinated animal groups our vaccine will bring about less virus circulation after infection. So the chance of the virus being picked up by the midges is smaller, and therefore the virus will multiply less and spread less. Virus in the blood does not always mean that the animal is sick. Reducing the virus 100% is not always possible and not always necessary."
February 29 2008 ~ Northern Ireland have suspended the import of certain cattle and sheep from bluetongue zones
See Belfast TelegraphThe legality of such a unilateral move seems to be in question. More as we hear further comment.
February 29 2008 ~ "..the intention is to extend or modify the zone in order to permit further vaccination"
In answer to a question from Peter Bone MP, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, Jonathan Shaw (Hansard) said, " Depending on vaccine availability and the disease situation, once vaccination is progressing broadly across the Protection Zone, the intention is to extend or modify the zone in order to permit further vaccination. This will allow a phased approach as vaccine is delivered."
February 29 2008 ~ U-turn on vaccination from Scottish Government expected next week.
Until last week, livestock representatives in Scotland, and the Scottish Government, opposed vaccination. As with FMD vaccination, EU rules have been the reason. Livestock leaders feared the movement restrictions that would be imposed if a Protection Zone was declared - and the bizarre EU rules say vaccination may take place only in a PZ. Scotland also has a lucrative trade with the Republic of Ireland and did not want to lose their ability to trade with other free countries. It is expected that Scotland will now order 12 million doses of vaccine, probably from Merial or Fort Dodge.Dr Ruth Watkins is quoted in the Farmers Guardian:
“Vaccine used in Britain this summer will help to suppress the level of virus being carried by the midge population, especially if it is directed first at cattle. This in turn will reduce the number of infected sheep... but it will not prevent infection spread entirely. Britain must try to use vaccine this year even though it will not arrive at the perfect time and its distribution will be imperfect. However it is important that is distributed before August.”Read Farmers Guardian article which has the full story.
February 28 2008 ~ "DEFRA has admitted it culled the wrong animal
after bluetongue was found in an imported cow on a farm near Middlesbrough, in December. The mistake resulted in the infected animal remaining on the farm, in the village of Great Ayton, until mid-January..." See Farmers Guardian The tone of the Defra spokeswoman's statement may cause some raised eyebrows. She said that the mistake was "due to an ‘administrative error in recording identification numbers’ on the farm by Animal Health officials, compounded by a failure to carry out the proper checks later by officials at AH ‘headquarters’," adding apparently that it was "lucky" that the error occurred in the vector free period....
February 28 2008 ~ Danish scientists to investigate if satellites can predict when and where the midges are present in numbers.
".....When the knowledge gathered about the midges and their preferred conditions for living and reproducing is combined with data covering soil types and farms, the scientists plan to develop a computer model to calculate risk areas for bluetongue in Denmark.With an efficient computer model, the scientists have a tool which can help calculate how quickly the virus develops in midges and how fast the infection spreads in various locations and in different seasons...." From an article from New Zealand www.horsetalk.co.nz about Bluetongue and about African Horse Sickness (also spread by midges and also, fear many, about to affect Britain)
February 28 2008 ~ France: "this year it is a matter of limiting symptoms and losses rather than eradication of the disease"
The French Ministry of Agriculture has announced their vaccination plan (subject to final agreement on March 4th):
".... voluntary vaccination will be carried out by veterinary surgeons and paid for in part by livestock owners (at a reasonable charge). In effect, this year it is a matter of limiting symptoms and losses rather than eradication of the disease.... the State is buying the vaccines (financed ¾ by the EU, ¼ by the State). The costs of the vaccination process itself by vets will thus fall on the farmers. Even so, the European Commission will contribute this year a maximum of 1 euro for every bovine (i.e. 50 centimes per injection) and 15 centimes per smaller animal vaccinated which will be paid directly to the vets. The timescale: one delivery for serotype 1 , April for serotype 8, then in stages every month until August when a total number of 40 million of doses ought to have been delivered. (30 million for bovine and 10 for small ruminants) For both sheep and cattle, the 16 departments affected in 2006 will take priority . .."(We have now translated the information from La Directrice Départementale des services vétérinaires in full,)
February 27 2008 ~ Some extracts from the French veterinary press..
..give an insight into the deep anxiety of French vets about the evolution of the disease since 2006 and the absolute necessity of effective vaccination. From La Semaine Vétérinaire N° 1298 :
".. In two and a half months we had more abortions than in the last 10 years. ... calves weigh 20 kg and die as soon as they are put on drips. In thirty-five years of practice, I have never seen this before. .. the economic impact is enormous. 80-85% of the grazers that we have tested for exportation are positive and they are selling much more cheaply. We have doubts too about the effect on their fertility. I do not know what to say to the farmers/breeders .... It is the same thing with vaccination. I know that I am troubled (when I think) about the risks next Spring if the necessary doses of the vaccine are not ready in time. " Dr François Piffoux, Avallon, Yonne "... the evolution of the disease in the animals at the beginning of lactation has produced numerous forms or deaths. At the end of December, we have had to undertake euthaniasia everyday, in cattle who are not recovering. Their suffering, is very visible and enormously marked. ... from now on the production in the farms will become less profitable a...and they will disappear unless an effective solution can be found. ... Only an effective vaccination can restore hope to the farmers and breeders..." Dr Hervé François, Dieuze , Moselle
February 26 2008 ~ "Animal Health" has launched today a free news alert service on notifiable animal disease.
The service is available to anyone who is interested. It provides registered users with the latest news on exotic notifiable animal disease outbreaks in Great Britain - FMD, Bluetongue, H5N1, Newcastle disease and Classical Swine Fever. It is very easy to register for any or all of these and, for email alerts, all that is needed is an email address. LinkIn addition today DEFRA has a link to a general licence for the movement of ruminant animals from premises in a Surveillance Zone in England to premises in a Restricted Zone in Wales
February 26 2008 ~ Merial Licences restored
We must be grateful for small mercies. The Defra website:
"SAPO licence restored to Merial Animal Health Defra has today restored the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) licence to Merial Animal Health to permit the use of Foot and Mouth Disease and Blue Tongue viruses for vaccine production. This follows inspections by the Health and Safety Executive and Defra."It is to be hoped that Merial in the UK can now go full steam ahead on these life-saving vaccines and that orders will be firmly made. See also below.
February 25/26 2008 ~ France way ahead on Bluetongue
As Ruth Watkins points out, France is the only European country to have ordered sufficient vaccine to vaccinate all the domestic ruminants and also to have a plan in place to do so. They realise, too, that in order to protect the Mediterranean countries against infection with the virulent BTV-8 strain as well as France's own livestock, the areas infected in France must do their level best to eradicate the disease. France's vaccination campaign will be compulsory. (Note: this last statement may not be wholly accurate. Inquiries as to the latest situation are underway) The vaccine itself is being paid for by the EU; french farmers will pay only for half the veterinary bills. Farmers in Eastern and Northern France have already been instructed to errect crushes for their livestock to enable the vaccination to be undertaken efficiently, fast and without injury to beast and man. (Many thanks to Susan Baekeland, our Normandy correspondent, for this information)