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UUP Urge Vigilance following English cases of Schmallenberg Virus

The Ulster Unionist Party has called on DARD and AFBI to work closely with their counterparts in DEFRA to learn all they can about the Schmallenberg Virus (SBV).  This comes after the first confirmation of the disease in the UK was reported this week in eastern England.  The new livestock disease which affects cattle, sheep and goats was identified on four sheep farms in East Sussex, Suffolk and Norfolk.

In a statement the UUP Agricultural Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, said: 

“The confirmation that sheep on several farms in eastern England have tested positive for the Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) is obviously an unwelcome development for the farmers directly affected and a deeply worrying development for the wider UK farming community as a whole.  The sense of unease is heightened as SBV is a new disease and as a result there is limited information regarding how it behaves, with little experience of previous outbreaks to have learned from. 

It is therefore important that DARD and AFBI officials liaise closely with DEFRA to gather as much information as possible about the cases in England plus engage and cooperate with other partner organisations based in continental Europe where SBV was first identified to learn what we can about this virus plus remain up-to-date of the situation as it develops.” 

Fellow UUP ARD committee member at Stormont, Robin Swann MLA said “We have already seen Russia suspend imports of sheep and goats from some countries where cases have been found, and our industry could happily do without similar sanctions being imposed upon it.  Work is on-going to improve knowledge of testing, identification and control measures, it is in all our interests that the cases in England are contained and that we in Northern Ireland remain free of SBV, this situation needs to be monitored closely.” 

Speaking from Brussels their colleague of in the European Parliament Jim Nicholson MEP said that collaboration and pooling of information is “vital” for containing and combating the SBV.

In a statement Mr. Nicholson said:  “Because of the lack of historical data regarding SBV it is vital that there is collaboration to pool information as this situation develops and I am glad that the EU’s Health Commissioner, John Dalli, has stressed this point. 

Vigilance is however also needed by individual Member States and their farmers to help ensure that we minimise the impact of this virus.  Detecting and reporting possible symptoms early helps to improve diagnosis and containment plus provides scientists with a greater opportunity to study the virus. 

Since the confirmation of the presence of SBV in eastern England the British Veterinary Association has also reiterated its call for increased vigilance amongst the veterinary community.  Along with farmers vets are on the frontline in monitoring this situation on the ground and therefore play an important part in helping to ensure that this virus is contained and that we learn as much as possible about its behaviour which ultimately improves how we combat SBV.”

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