9 July 1999

Worrying rise in incidents of cattle TB

GOVERNMENT figures for tuberculosis in cattle have increased fears that the disease is out of control.

Official figures unveiled by junior farm minister Jeff Rooker in Parliament show there were 740 new confirmed incidents of bovine TB in Britain last year – a rise of 43% from the 515 cases in 1997.

But the number of new outbreaks more than doubled in some counties, with TB spreading to some areas which have been free from the disease for decades.

New cases

In Cornwall, one of the "hot-spot" areas for bovine TB, the number of new cases increased by 53% from 74 to 139.

A similar increase was seen in Glos and figures for Hereford and Worcester, showed 116 new incidents compared to 86 in 1997. In Avon, the number of new cases rose sharply from 10 to 25.

In addition 12 English counties which were previously unaffected, succumbed to the disease. And the only county now free from TB in Wales is Clywd, following fresh incidents in Gwynedd, and South Glamorgan.

NFU animal health and welfare committee chairman Brian Jennings said the official figures backed union forecasts that the TB problem would continue to escalate.

Mr Jennings added that he was infuriated by the late release of figures and the fact that figures are only released annually.

"BSE figures can be produced monthly, why not TB?" he asked. "Monthly figures would allow the peaks in disease to be compared with management and weather changes so we could see whether the peaks occur at grass or during housing." &#42