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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007, 02:42 GMT 03:42 UK
'No compensation' for bluetongue
Midge
The bluetongue virus is transmitted by midges
UK farmers whose livestock are hit by bluetongue disease following confirmation of an outbreak will not be compensated, the government has said.

Deputy Chief Vet Fred Landeg acknowledged movement controls would cost the industry tens of millions.

But he said there would be no compensation payments because no more culling would take place.

Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union, said the virus was a "bitter blow" to the countryside.

A protection zone has been set up in Suffolk after government vets confirmed bluetongue disease was circulating in the UK and was classed as an outbreak.

The zone will be a minimum of 150km (93 miles) around infected premises.

A stricter 20km control zone has also been set up around the known bluetongue cases, with restrictions preventing animals being moved out of both zones.

European spread

Mr Landeg said test results had shown the disease was being transmitted by biting midges, "rather than animal to animal".

This meant a cull would not help stamp it out, he said.

So far there have been five confirmed cases of the disease. All the animals which tested positive had been culled.

Unless we do have that very severe winter it is likely, given the Northern European experience, that the disease will re-emerge next year
Deputy chief vet Fred Landeg

There have been nearly 3,000 cases of bluetongue in northern Europe - including the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany - since July, which had fuelled fears of its arrival in the UK.

Mr Landeg said the aim now was to "contain the disease to that part of the country where we have these confirmed cases", but he warned that bluetongue was a very different disease to control to foot-and-mouth.

A cold winter could help eradicate the virus, he said, but he warned that it was likely there would be a "large" number of cases before then, and that it could return afterwards.

"Unless we do have that very severe winter it is likely, given the northern European experience, that the disease will re-emerge next year."

There was currently no available vaccine for this strain of the virus, but it did not "pose any risk to human health", he said.

Impact

Farmers within the 20km control zones placed around infected premises will not be permitted to transport livestock out of the area, unless for slaughter within the wider protection zone.

Livestock owners within the protection zone will be allowed to move animals only within its boundaries.

It's really a case of... applying some sort of fly repellent to the animals, and then hoping for a vaccine to be developed sooner rather than later
Ben Woolf
Cattle farmer

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn acknowledged that the situation was "very bad news for farmers".

He added: "We are determined to continue to work closely with the farming industry and the farmers affected for whom this is a very difficult time."

Ben Woolf, a cattle farmer from the affected area in Suffolk, told BBC News 24 he expected the economic effect to be similar to that of foot-and-mouth, but over a longer period.

"At the moment it's really a case of possibly applying some sort of fly repellent to the animals, and then hoping for a vaccine to be developed sooner rather than later," he said.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced the fifth case of bluetongue on Thursday at a farm near Burstall in Suffolk.

Other cases were confirmed at Washbrook near Ipswich, a farm in Lound and in two animals on a rare breeds farm in Baylham, near Ipswich.

The strain, first detected on Saturday, is the same as one that has killed livestock in Europe.

The virus is spread by midges and affects cattle, sheep, goats and deer.

Animals with the disease experience discomfort, with flu-like symptoms, and swelling and haemorrhaging in and around the mouth and nose. They can also go lame and have difficulty eating.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Environment Minister Hilary Benn reacts to outbreak



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