OCTOBER 28, 2008: A new strain of bluetongue has been discovered in The Netherlands.
Now Neil Parish, Conservative MEP and Chairman of the European Parliament Agriculture Committee, has called on the European Commission to speed up plans to develop a multi strain bluetongue vaccine. Mr Parish made the call after it emerged that bluetongue serotype six virus (BTV-6) was found in animals on three farms near the Dutch/German border. This is the first time that the virus has been found in Northern Europe and raised concerns that it will follow the path of the bluetongue eight virus (BTV-8) that spread to the UK last year. The commission developed a vaccine against BTV 8 which has been used by many farmers in the UK and has mitigated the impact of the disease. However, this vaccine only works against that one strain of bluetongue viruses, leaving Britain unprotected if any other strains reach us. Mr Parish said: “Farmers have been able to get hold of a vaccine for BTV-8 but it is now clear that new strains of bluetongue are on their way. We have seen BTV 1 moving up from Spain into Southern France and now BTV 6 in the Netherlands. It is surely only a matter of time before they hit the UK. “The government and commission must work together to ensure that a multi strain vaccine is developed and that it is available as soon as possible to farmers on the ground. There are 24 strains of bluetongue and without an effective multi strain vaccine we will be scrambling for cover every time a new strain starts moving up the continent.”