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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 13:14 GMT
Bluetongue disease detected in NI
Cow (generic)
The disease was detected in an imported cow
Bluetongue disease has been detected in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew confirmed on Friday it has been found in a dairy cow in County Antrim imported from the Netherlands.

The animal tested positive for the virus following routine post-import testing undertaken by the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development.

However, because of the circumstances Northern Ireland remains officially bluetongue free.

Ms Gildernew said she had restricted the herd involved and all of the animals will now be tested for any other evidence of infection.

"The department will also now be tracing and testing associated herds. Meanwhile, an epidemiological investigation has begun to assess the situation," she continued.

Status quo

"This investigation will help determine if disease is circulating but at this time there is no evidence to suggest that it is. Therefore at this time the north's bluetongue free status remains."

The minister added: "I cannot stress enough the importance of farmers remaining vigilant for signs of the disease.

"I would continue to urge all farmers to think very carefully before importing susceptible animals from bluetongue infected countries."

The Ulster Farmers' Union has called for an immediate voluntary end to livestock imports until further notice.

UFU president Kenneth Starkey said: "The animal involved in this unfolding situation followed all the import control procedures that have been put in place to protect Northern Ireland from the disease.

"The disease has nevertheless emerged so it is now clear the current import controls do not guarantee that we are protected."

UUP MEP Jim Nicholson said news of Northern Ireland's first case of bluetongue disease made it clear "our already stringent controls on importing cattle are not quite stringent enough".

"This case means that we must re-double our efforts on the controls in place to ensure that Northern Ireland can remain free of this disease in the future."

Measures to prevent the spread of Bluetongue in NI

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