Strain of bluetongue in Netherlands raises cattle import concerns

FARMERS have again been advised not to import livestock after a new form of the bluetongue virus was confirmed in cattle in the Netherlands.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said that the BTV6 serotype had not been reported previously in the European Union and was not known to be present in Europe or in surrounding areas.

The information available from the Community Reference Laboratory is that the virus isolated is most likely to be a vaccinal strain of BTV6. It bears a strong resemblance to a live attenuated bluetongue vaccine produced in South Africa for administration to sheep.

This vaccine is not approved for use in the EU.

These cases and the ongoing confirmation of others means there are a number of strains of the bluetongue virus in member states.

Minister Smith said there are strict movement controls in the Netherlands and in part of Germany as a result of these latest cases. Movements from other bluetongue restricted zones are also subject to controls.

The existence of several strains of bluetongue raised serious concerns about the wisdom of importing any animals from affected regions at this time.

“Ireland is free from bluetongue and I strongly urge Irish farmers and others not to import animals from these regions so as not to jeopardise this status,” he said.

Minister Smith said the Dutch cases had been discussed at the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) earlier this week.

They will be discussed again at the next meeting of that Committee on November 11-12 when more information is expected to be available from the epidemiological and other investigations that are underway.


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