Dáil Éireann - Volume 606 - 28 September, 2005

Written Answers - Bovine Diseases.

  854. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will report on the national disease control programmes which are in place for bovine viral diarrhoea, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, paratuberculosis and Johne’s disease; the incidence of such diseases and the number of animals affected; the steps she is taking to eradicate these diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24581/05]

  Mary Coughlan: Bovine viral diarrhoea, BVD, is a disease of cattle caused by a pestivirus. The severity of disease depends on the age of the animal at the time of exposure to infection and may range from being mild or inapparent to causing reproductive failure in pregnant females or to being highly fatal in some persistently infected animals. BVD vaccines are available and vaccination programmes are an essential part of prevention and control measures. It is not a notifiable disease under the Diseases of Animals Act and there are no accurate prevalence figures currently available. There are no zoonotic implications with regard to BVD.

Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, IBR, is a viral respiratory disease of cattle caused by a herpes virus and infected animals usually remain carriers for life. The disease can result in pneumonia, reduced productivity, reduced fertility, or infertility, and even death. The severity of respiratory disease in weanlings is dependent on the secondary bacterial pathogens involved. IBR is endemic within the national bovine herd but no accurate prevalence figures are currently available. There are no zoonotic implications with IBR. Vaccination is considered to be an important method of controlling the spread of IBR. In the context of formulating strategies to control and eradicate the disease it is important that vaccinated cattle should be identifiable from naturally infected cattle. Therefore, since the beginning of January 2004, only marker vaccines have been available for vaccination against IBR.

IBR is not a notifiable disease under the Disease of Animals Act. It is a List B disease under [587] EU legislation. A state or region that is certified IBR free can limit trade and movement of cattle from areas that are not, by insisting on evidence of IBR freedom and blocking the importation of seropositive animals. There is no eradication scheme for IBR at present in Ireland.

Johne’s disease — paratuberculosis — is widespread in other EU member states and indeed worldwide. It is a chronic infectious disease of cattle, which gives rise to gradual wasting and loss of condition. Most cattle are infected early in life and while adult animals can become infected, it is rare and they usually have other problems such as deficiencies with their immune system. The disease has been notifiable in this country since 1955.

Until 1992, strict import conditions ensured that Johne’s disease was relatively rare in Ireland. However, since 1993, the increase in the number of cattle imported in the aftermath of the single market contributed to a significant increase in the numbers of reported cases of the disease. In an effort to raise awareness and to promote higher standards of hygiene management practices and calf rearing, my Department published two booklets in 2002 on Johne’s disease. One of these is aimed at the farmer and the other at the private veterinary practitioner. These booklets detail the precautions individual farmers should take to keep the disease out of their herds. It would also be prudent for any prospective purchaser to seek private certification of freedom from Johne’s disease from a vendor of cattle either imported from abroad or sourced within this country.

In early 2003, my Department discontinued the policy of slaughtering affected animals, when it became apparent that this approach was not effective. A strategic review, which involved consultation with relevant interests, of the approach to tackling the disease was initiated.

It is clear that effectively tackling Johne’s disease can only be achieved by sustained on-farm management of the disease over a number of years with particular focus on calf-rearing practices. The strategy being developed will therefore involve both short-term and long-term elements. Funding has been provided for diagnostic support at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. In 2005, my Department commenced a random survey using the bovine blood samples submitted as part of the brucellosis eradication programme to the Department’s laboratory in Cork. When this survey is completed, the results will be analysed and will form the basis for indicating the percentage of the national herd that may be affected by this condition.

As regards notifiable or non-notifiable diseases generally, the veterinary laboratory service, VLS, of my Department is available to support local veterinary practitioners and their clients. In this context, samples from animals may be submitted [588] for testing to my Department’s central veterinary laboratory or regional veterinary laboratories at the discretion of a private veterinary practitioner or upon request by a herdowner through his or her private veterinary practitioner.

My Department is in ongoing discussion with the industry, farmers’ representatives, veterinary surgeons and interested parties about the development of a national integrated approach to non-regulated diseases such as Johne's, bovine viral diarrhoea and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis.