Bluetongue could now be circulating
BLUETONGUE may already be circulating in the country after a fifth case was confirmed in Suffolk, the government has admitted.An animal from a farm near Burstall, less than four miles away from the fourth case at Copdock, tested positive for the disease yesterday, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
GOVERNMENT officials were back at Baylham House rare breeds farm today re-testing animals for the bluetongue virus.
There were hopes that the visit could mean the popular farm could be open to the public again next week if all the tests prove negative.
Today the county was dealing with news that a firth case of the disease had been found in a farm near Ipswich.
An animal from a farm near Burstall, less than four miles away from the fourth case at Copdock, tested positive for the disease yesterday, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
Richard Storer, who runs Baylham House with his family, said the arrival of Defra officials would be good news because they knew all his stock - except the pigs which are not affected by bluetongue - would have to be retested.
“If the tests come back negative there is no reason why we should not reopen, and that would be the best news we can hope for at the moment,” he said.
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Tests are now being carried on four animals at three Suffolk farms, which had all shown symptoms of the disease, heightening concerns among farmers that the UK was on the brink of a full scale bluetongue outbreak.
After the fifth case of the midge-transmitted disease came to light, Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer, said: “Obviously, we must face the very real risk that bluetongue could already be actively circulating in this country. It will be some time before we have the scientific evidence to confirm whether or not this is the case.”
Declaring an outbreak would impose total bans on the transport of animals over a wide area, just as the government has started to ease transport bans imposed for foot-and-mouth.
Since the first case of the disease, which recently swept through herds in northern Europe, was detected in the UK at Baylham on Saturday, three further cases had been found before last night.
The most recent was confirmed at Mace Green Farm, in Copdock on Wednesday. With the other farm affected being in Lound, near Lowestoft. It is the first time the disease has ever reached UK shores.
Meanwhile two of the other Suffolk farmers having their suspected cattle tested, had still not heard their results, causing them to believe they might be in the clear.
Ben Woolf, owner of Oak Farm House, at Sproughton and Robin Richards, owner of Rodwell Farm Diary, Baylham, both said they were relieved not to have heard back.
See tomorrow's Evening Star for a special feature on the farm at the eye of the bluetongue storm.