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Science chief urges caution over animal imports.

FARMERS have been warned to think carefully about importing animals from abroad - or at least to be more cautious about where they come from.

Professor David Paton, director of science at the Institute of Animal Health in Pirbright, Surrey, told NFU Cymru's annual conference - entitled Science Matters for Farming - that a variety of highly contagious diseases threaten food security and farming enterprises. Farmers could help to combat diseases such as bluetongue by taking extra care in accessing animals from abroad.

"Bluetongue can cause significant production losses in both the sheep and cattle industries," said Professor Paton.

"Even though the number of cases across Europe has decreased significantly farmers still have responsibilities in terms of imports."

Professor Paton said technological advances were creating huge opportunities to combat exotic animal diseases such as Bluetongue. But new threats were ever present, especially as global warming and climate change accelerate the spread of diseases.

Endemic viruses were a constant threat in the annual global production of 55 billion chickens, and the success in eradicating the cattle plague rinderpest - only the second disease to be eradicated worldwide after smallpox - masked the rapid spread of viruses like pest des petits ruminants, which is fatal to sheep and goats.

Other threats included African horse sickness, equine encephalomyelitis, West Nile disease, haemorrhagic fever - which means that pigs cannot be kept across most of Africa - and African swine fever, which is spreading into Europe.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 9, 2010
Words:235
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