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Official vet: news and updates

New border campaign to tackle African swine fever threat

19 September 2019, at 9:00am

A new campaign was launched on 31 July 2019 at the UK’s border to help keep the damaging disease African swine fever (ASF) out of the country.

The disease, which poses no threat to human health but is fatal for pigs, has already spread widely across Asia – including China and Vietnam – and parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Cases have also been reported throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

This has led to the deaths of over 800,000 pigs and wild boar in Europe and an estimated 4 million pigs in Asia, causing global pork prices to rise. If the disease was found in this country, it could have a devastating impact on the UK’s commercial pig stock of 5 million pigs, as well as the trade of pork products.

The campaign aims to safeguard the UK’s pork and pig industries by targeting anyone who has the potential to introduce African swine fever to the UK. It includes a poster campaign, introduced to UK airports and ports, to raise awareness of the disease and the risks of bringing back contaminated products. Border Force officers will enforce controls at the border on illegal meat by searching freight, passengers and luggage and will seize and destroy illegally imported meat products.

APHA issues update on exporting animals and animal products in a no-deal Brexit


The APHA has updated its guidance on exporting animals and animal products in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Importers will need to complete an export health certificate (EHC) to export to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. EHCs will need to be applied for and completed in advance of export, and all documents must be authorised after consignments have been inspected.

Exporters must ensure that goods follow a trade route that allows the consignment to be checked at a border inspection post (BIP) at the first EU country entered. Exporters must also make sure that EU-based import agents have notified the BIP that the consignment is arriving 24 hours in advance. All of these rules are applicable to exporters who are transferring animals, products of animal origin, food for animals and germplasm.

Read the full updated guidance here.

Shropshire horse diagnosed with equine viral arteritis

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed a new case of equine viral arteritis in a non-thoroughbred stallion in Shropshire on 31 July 2019. Equine viral arteritis is a notifiable disease in all stallions, and in mares that have been mated or inseminated in the last 14 days. Investigations are ongoing but at present it appears to be unrelated to the cases in Devon and Dorset earlier in the year.

Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Graeme Cooke, said: “We are taking action to limit the risk of the disease spreading by placing breeding and movement restrictions on the animal. A full investigation is continuing to consider the source and possible spread of the infection.”

To report the disease in England, call 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office.

OV briefing

Consider bluetongue virus serotype 8 with malformed calves and abortion

Bluetongue virus (BTV), specifically BTV serotype 8 (BTV-8) is re-emerging in northern Europe. BTV-8 should be considered as a possible cause of malformed calves or abortion, in addition to Schmallenberg virus (SBV).

Since December 2018, there have been reports from France of calves born small and blind and dying at a few days of age. The number reported has increased considerably since January 2019. These animals have been positive by PCR on blood and spleen for BTV-8 and negative for SBV. Detection in calves during the Culicoides vector-free period suggests transplacental BTV-8 infection.

The 2006 to 2009 BTV-8 strain also showed some transplacental transmission, but these were more associated with abortions and dummy calves. Transplacental transmission in the re-emerging strain in France appears to be at a much higher prevalence.

Since the first reports of cases, 418 samples from such calves have been reported as testing positive by PCR for BTV-8. Between 2 and 15 percent of newborn calves have been infected on some farms. This observation, and further studies using experimental midge infection, suggest that the current BTV-8 strain in France has a reduced Culicoides vector competence, which reflects phenotypic changes in the re-emerging strain with far less obvious clinical signs appearing in susceptible animals. Transplacental transmission is of interest as a possible mechanism of over-wintering of the virus in the absence of midges in northern Europe.

BTV-8 should therefore be considered by OVs as a possible cause of malformed calves or abortion, in addition to SBV. The weaker pathogenicity of the re-emerging strain of BTV-8 in adult sheep and cattle may result in fewer clinical signs (compared to the UK 2007 strain), so an increase in awareness is required to avoid the suspicion of infection being missed.