Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 18:19 UK

Bluetongue protection zone widens

A sheep infected with bluetongue
Symptoms of bluetongue are generally worst in sheep

The government has announced plans to extend further its protection zone against the animal disease bluetongue.

Vaccination is only permitted within the bluetongue protection zone which currently includes East Anglia and a large part of the south of England.

From Monday, it will cover all of Devon, including Plymouth and Torbay.

From 2 June, Defra intends to include Cornwall, East Riding of Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Selby, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

A Defra spokesman said this was subject to the delivery of further vaccine supplies as expected.

Order vaccines

The virus, spread by midges, was first reported in Britain last year. Since then, 127 premises have been infected.

Bluetongue is non-contagious but can have a devastating effect on cattle herds and sheep.

The government is rolling out its programme of vaccination by gradually expanding the high-risk protection zones county by county.

The first vaccinations took place on a farm in Norfolk at the start of this month and so far 9.4m doses of vaccine have been released for use.

Animals can only be moved out of the protection zone if they are vaccinated, naturally immune or being moved for slaughter.

Livestock keepers in the areas coming into the protection zone will be able to obtain the vaccine from the time they become part of the zone, but are encouraged to order vaccines in advance through their vet.

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