Bluetongue Makes Farmers’ Fears for Their Industry

UK - Farmers are anxiously waiting to learn whether a Highland cow found to be suffering from the midge-borne disease bluetongue is a one-off case caused by an insect travelling across the North Sea from northern Europe
calendar icon 24 September 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

Their fear is that the disease — which has decimated farms in Europe and Africa — has now become established in the British midge population.

The first British case of bluetongue, which was found on a rare breeds farm in Suffolk, heightened alarm among farmers and in rural communities that are already struggling after the resurgence of foot-and-mouth disease.

Bluetongue is harmless to humans but if it takes hold in midges its impact on British farmers and their incomes could be worse than that of foot-and-mouth. Farmers’ leaders are also concerned that continuing publicity about both diseases will make consumers lose confidence in home-reared meat.

Government vets were urgently trapping and testing midges yesterday to find out whether the virus is circulating. If there is any evidence that it is, or if new cases emerge, stringent movement controls will be imposed around the infected premises, Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, near Ipswich. A 12.5-mile (20km) zone would be set up around the farm, a further protection zone imposed in a radius of 60 miles and a surveillance zone would extend to 93 miles. Restrictions will not be lifted until at least 120 days after the last case.

It is understood that lesions on Debbie, the infected cow in Suffolk, may have been two or three weeks old and that the virus may have been blown across on the wind in August. It is possible, however, without evidence of other cases, that the infection was caused by only one infected midge.

Source: Times Online

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