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Fresh crisis for farmers as new virus strikes

British farming, still reeling from the latest outbreaks of foot and mouth disease a contagious disease (Eczema epizoötica) of cattle, sheep, swine, etc., characterized by the formation of vesicles and ulcers in the mouth and about the hoofs.

See also: Foot
, was facing another crisis yesterday after a potentially devastating dev·as·tate  
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.

2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark.
 virus was discovered in a cow in the UK for the first time.

The first case of bluetongue disease was confirmed in a Highland cow on Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, near Ipswich, on Saturday.

The animal, named Debbie, had been tested for foot and mouth last week before being diagnosed with bluetongue bluetongue

an infectious, non-contagious disease of sheep and occasionally cattle, transmitted by Culicoides spp. Caused by an Orbivirus with at least 24 serotypes worldwide. Cattle are the reservoir and amplification hosts.
. It was culled yesterday and its carcass removed from the farm.

Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the United Kingdom government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in England.  were last night testing midges midges

see ceratopogonidae and culicoides.
 and farm animals on the site, but said the case would not be classed as an outbreak unless the virus was found in insects or further infected animals. A spokeswoman for the department emphasised that there had not been a clampdown clamp·down  
An imposing of restrictions or controls: "Advertisers and broadcasters would raise howls of protest against any strong clampdown" Wall Street Journal.
 on livestock movement in the area. Defra later confirmed that the strain of bluetongue virus detected in Suffolk was Serotype serotype /se·ro·type/ (ser´o-tip) the type of a microorganism determined by its constituent antigens; a taxonomic subdivision based thereon.

See serovar.

 8, the same as that found recently in northern Europe.

The chief veterinary officer, Debby Reynolds, said: "It remains vitally important that farmers maintain vigilance for this disease and report any suspect cases, particularly as clinical signs may be similar to foot and mouth disease."

Gordon Brown chaired a meeting of the government's Cobra emergencies committee in Whitehall on Saturday to discuss the situation before going to Bournemouth for the Labour conference.

Agriculture minister Lord Rooker told a Labour party fringe meeting yesterday that the government had been expecting the arrival of bluetongue disease on British shores for some time. Officials had even mapped out possible dates in the summer when conditions would be just right for midges carrying the disease.

"We have been expecting it because of what's happened in Europe in the last couple of years," he said. "It's come from North Africa. It may be that we can nip it in the bud; we will do our best to make sure it does not spread."

The discovery of bluetongue came after another case of foot and mouth was confirmed in the control zone in Surrey over the weekend. Cattle were slaughtered on the sixth premises to test positive since the disease was discovered in August.

Meanwhile Defra last night placed a 1.8 mile temporary control zone around a premises near Petersfield, Hampshire, following another suspected case of foot and mouth disease.

Bluetongue, which does not affect humans, is a disease of ruminants, including sheep, cattle, deer and goats. It can cause high mortality rates in sheep and reduce milk yield in cattle. It was found in northern Europe last autumn, with areas such as the Netherlands and Germany affected for the first time.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "I'm optimistic this can be quite an isolated localised localised - localisation  case and going into winter these midges aren't as active as they would have been if this had happened two or three months ago."

If the tests confirm wider presence of the virus, officials will set up a new six mile control zone and a 93 mile surveillance zone for the disease.

David Catlow, president of the British Veterinary Association British Veterinary Association

a voluntary professional organization which has the objective of maintaining the highest possible status of the British veterinary profession.
 said there were "real concerns" that the disease could become prevalent in the UK. "There is nothing we can do to stop or control it except vaccinate vac·ci·nate
To inoculate with a vaccine in order to produce immunity to an infectious disease such as diphtheria or typhus.

 animals," he said. "But an effective vaccine is still being worked on and is at least a year away."

Brian Finnerty, a spokesman for the NFU NFU National Farmers Union (Denver, CO and Washington, DC)
NFU National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales
NFU No First Use
NFU Norwegian Farmers' Union
NFU North Florida University
, said it was "very, very concerned", adding: "No one wants to take any chances especially in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak."

Yesterday afternoon, the Storer family, who own Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, issued a statement describing the last week as "traumatic".

"Having reached the point on Thursday when we were assured that we had not got foot and mouth on the farm, the drama began all over again when we were told on Friday that all our stock would need to be checked for bluetongue," it said.

"This brought with it a host of new problems ... In the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile
 we have lost Debbie, a highland cow who was a great favourite with our regular visitors. However, the future is hopeful and we are so grateful that we have not had to endure the terrible trauma that farmers in Surrey must be going through." The Storers thanked Defra, the police and the public, and said they hoped to reopen soon.

In June, Howard Dalton, former chief scientist at Defra, warned that foreign diseases such as bluetongue could "wipe out entire stocks of animals" in Britain. Their immune systems might be unable to cope with new infections brought by climate change, he told a conference in Italy. The EU has warned that bluetongue can cause "spectacular disease outbreaks".
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Date:Sep 24, 2007
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