A vaccine to prevent the spread of bluetongue virus, which is expected to reach the south of England later this summer, will soon be made available to UK farmers.
MSD Animal Health has signed an agreement with Spanish-based veterinary biopharmaceutical specialist CZ Veterinaria S.A. (CZV) to distribute its BLUEVAC BTV8 vaccine throughout Great Britain.
The vaccine has been used in Europe for a number of years.
Although the disease is only expected to reach the south of England in the first instance, SAC Consulting’s head of veterinary services, Brian Hosie, said availability of a vaccine for cattle and sheep farmers would be beneficial to all producers across the UK.
“Bluetongue caused serious losses in continental Europe in 2007 and 2008. France was particularly badly affected and the disease reappeared there last year. The virus is spread by biting midges and the expectation is infected midges blown across from France will cause the disease to appear in England later this summer,” said Mr Hosie.
“Bluetongue typically causes mild febrile disease in cattle and milk drop is noted in dairy cows. It is more severe in breeding sheep where facial swellings lead to difficulty in breathing and death. The vaccine will protect cattle and sheep. Use of the vaccine on cattle and sheep holdings in the south of England should help to prevent the disease gaining a foothold in Britain.”
He urged any farmers or crofters who were concerned about the disease to speak to their vets when the vaccine becomes available in July. “By that time we will know whether bluetongue has crossed the sea from France and about the risk of the disease spreading to Scotland,” added Mr Hosie.
MSD Animal Health’s vet and technical manager, John Atkinson, said the vaccine was licensed for use in both cattle and sheep and could be used during pregnancy.
He said: “All animals should be given a primary course of two injections under the skin, three weeks apart. The immunity afforded by the vaccine lasts for a year after completion of the primary course.”