Bluetongue Disease

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 27 November 2023.

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Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the case of bluetongue virus in a cow in Kent on (a) biosecurity and (b) animal health.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bluetongue is an exotic notifiable disease of ruminants (cattle, sheep, deer and goats) and camelids (llamas and alpacas). It is caused by a virus that is spread by biting midges. It does not affect people or food safety and cannot be spread in meat or milk. Defra's approach to bluetongue disease is based on the latest scientific evidence and veterinary advice and is set out in the GB Bluetongue Virus Disease Control Strategy, supported by the Contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases of animals in England. These plans are in line with international standards of best practice for disease control.

Defra and Animal and Plant Health Agency officials took immediate action to safeguard animal health and prevent potential spread from the single infected cow: the animal which tested positive for Bluetongue serotype 3 (BTV3) was humanely culled and a 10km Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) has been put in place around the affected premises. Within the TCZ, a range of controls are in place to prevent potential spread of disease, including restrictions on the movement of susceptible animals, except under licence. A veterinary investigation and surveillance are underway to consider the origin of the disease and check for potential spread. There is no authorised vaccine for BTV3 so good biosecurity practices are essential - we are working with industry representatives to provide keepers with advice on how they can protect their animals from bluetongue.

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