Vets fear spread of deadly cattle bug

27 June 2000

Vets fear spread of deadly cattle bug

A DEADLY tropical disease which killed cattle in Scotland could have travelled south of the border, fear government vets.

Two dairy cows died of Theileriosis on Blythbank Farm, run by the Roslin Institute, in Peebleshire, after being accidentally infected with the disease.

Twenty-two others were destroyed after tests indicated they may have had the disease.

Now the State Veterinary Service will attempt over the next few weeks to trace any animals from the farm that might have come to England.

Its investigation will seek to establish which farmers received animals and whether or not those still alive are infected.

If a Roslin animal is traced to an English farm, tests will be carried out on the farm and, if the animal is still alive, place movement restrictions on it.

However, the ministry of agriculture said the nature of the disease means it is unlikely to have spread further and the numbers involved are likely to be small.

The ministry says there are no known implications for human health.

After Theileriosis was discovered in the Roslin dairy herd in March travel restrictions were imposed on 628 cattle, although they tested clear of the disease.

But there are fears the disease may have spread with up to 400 other animals not accounted for which were sold on to commercial farmers

It is believed that the infection was spread through cross contamination during experimental work to find an improved vaccine for the disease.

Theileriosis is a parasite with a complex life cycle and it is normally transmitted between individual animals by blood-sucking ticks. It only infects cattle.

The species of tick necessary for the spread of Theileriosis does not live in the UK, meaning it is unlikely that infected animals will have transmitted the disease, claims MAFF.

Theileriosis causes heavy losses for farmers in Africa, India and China and parts of southern Europe.

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