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Minister Coughlan repeats her call for caution on the importation of cattle and sheep in the context of Bluetongue disease

The Minster for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today reminded farmers and livestock traders of the risks to the Irish livestock sector through the importation of any cattle and sheep from bluetongue restricted zones.

This follows the discovery of animals during routine post-importation tests by the Department, which had been exposed to the bluetongue virus in the past. These animals are now free of the virus and had developed a natural immunity and accordingly are not a threat to animal health.

The Minister repeated her message in the context of the Department recording the first sero positive but more importantly PCR negative cases in imported cattle since the adoption of the bluetongue trading rules last November. PCR negative means that the animals are free of virus and pose no threat to animal health (although the ELISA sero positive test indicates that the animals had been exposed to the virus in the past and have developed a natural immunity).

Since the revised trading rules began in November last a total of 512 imported animals have been tested, with 24 animals (in one consignment) showing sero positive to ELISA but negative to PCR in the last few days. Minister Coughlan pointed out that this shows the need for all livestock farmers and traders to be conscious of the risks involved in importing cattle and sheep, even high genetic breeding stock from bluetongue zones.

The Minister added that she had taken unilateral action last week to suspend the importation from bluetongue restricted zones of female breeding and production cattle aged over 12 months and female sheep aged over six months. This was a precautionary measure based on new scientific information and consistent with her commitment to keep the level of risk to Ireland under review.

Date Released: 28 February 2008