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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Bluetongue 'unlikely' in Scotland
Midge
Research is being carried out as to which midges carry the virus
Bluetongue disease is unlikely to reach Scotland, according to a leading microbiologist.

Professor Hugh Pennington said spread of the disease, which has been found in the UK for the first time, hinges on the type of midges which carry it.

Research is continuing to discover whether Scotland's midges are carriers.

However, Prof Pennington said the country's colder weather would be a barrier as the virus does not grow in temperatures of less than 12C.

The Aberdeen University expert also said sheep on Scotland's hillsides were unlikely to contract the disease as their environment would be even colder.

Prof Hugh Pennington
You need quite warm conditions for the virus to be transmitted on any scale so I think it is unlikely that it will come to Scotland
Prof Hugh Pennington

Bluetongue, a virus spread by midges that has killed livestock across Europe, has been found in a cow at a Suffolk farm.

There have been almost 3,000 cases in northern Europe since July, which had fuelled fears of its UK arrival.

Cattle, sheep, goats and deer can be infected, but the virus is not thought to pose a risk to humans.

Prof Pennington told BBC Scotland's news website: "Some midges are better than others at spreading this disease.

"The question is, do we have the right kind of midges and in the right places?

Hilly ground

"The traditional Scottish biting midge, a pest in the west Highlands, is not thought to be particularly important in spreading bluetongue."

However, Prof Pennington added that it had not been fully researched yet.

"You also need quite warm conditions for the virus to be transmitted on any scale so I think it is unlikely that it will come to Scotland.

"Also, the cases in northern Europe suggest that hilly ground is not favourable for the virus to spread."

Prof Pennington said there were more than 50 kinds of midges and that they were very difficult to identify.




SEE ALSO
Virus fears for Scots livestock
23 Sep 07 |  Scotland
Q&A: Bluetongue disease
23 Sep 07 |  UK

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