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Defra sets out plans to control bluetongue spread
The most recent confirmed case of bluetongue in England was on 8 March 2024.
The probability of new cases this year is considered to be very high.

New plans on how to manage any outbreak of bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) in England this year have been set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Movement control zones, which were used for earlier cases, are likely to be used again in areas where the disease is identified. The zones will be kept under constant review and modified or withdrawn depending on the spread of the disease.

In advance of any zones being declared, free BTV-3 tests will be available for livestock being moved to live elsewhere in Great Britain from the counties where the risk of the virus is highest: Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East Sussex.

Limited culling of infected animals will also continue to be used to contain the virus. However, if there is evidence that bluetongue is circulating in biting midges in the area, culling will not take place as it will no longer be deemed an effective control measure.

There are currently no plans for a vaccine to be authorised in the immediate future, despite two vaccines being given approval for use in the Netherlands. Defra says that it is continuing to engage with vaccine manufacturers over the development and supply of a safe and effective vaccine.

Since November 2023, there have been 126 cases confirmed in England, with the most recent confirmed on 8 March 2024. A recent risk assessment found that there is a very high probability of the virus being introduced into livestock in England this year by windborne midges from northern Europe.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “The Bluetongue Disease Control Framework sets out how we will work to minimise the impact of a potential outbreak of disease, using the latest scientific and veterinary advice to reduce disease transmission as much as possible.

“We know that the likelihood of bluetongue virus entering Great Britain is increasing and so I would urge farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.”  

Biosecurity minister Lord Douglas Miller added: “We are actively engaging with vaccine manufacturers and industry about access to a safe and effective BTV-3 vaccine that has undergone thorough due diligence.

“All disease control decisions will be kept under constant review to ensure they remain proportionate and as effective as possible in controlling the spread of the disease.”

The full framework can be read on the Defra website.

Image © Shutterstock

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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

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News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."