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Homepage > Business > Animal health > Controlling animal diseases

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Controlling animal diseases

There are many prevention, control and eradication measures in place to protect your business, the industry and, in some cases, public health from animal-borne diseases.

Every keeper of livestock has a responsibility to care about the health and welfare of their own animals.

What can I do?

Some of the steps you can take to prevent introduction and dissemination of animal diseases are:

  • Routine cleansing and disinfection of all equipment, protective clothing, vehicles, etc.
     
  • Personal biosecurity.
     
  • Restricting visitors access to the livestock area.
     
  • Complying with the movement standstill period.
     
  • Being alert to any disease symptoms.
     
  • Reporting suspected disease to a vet.

How are they spread?

Infection can be easily spread by contaminated surfaces such as:

  • clothing
  • hands
  • equipment

Direct contact with fallen stock or with other infected animals can also spread diseases. These can include dogs, cats and stray foxes which may carry infection without being infected.

Biosecurity measures can minimise the risk of an outbreak and spread of the disease.

How do I report a disease?

If you suspect your animals have any signs of a notifiable disease you must phone your local APHA office on 03000 200 301 without delay.

Further information

list of main notifiable diseases is on Defra's web site. 

Answer:

This is the main biosecurity practice used to minimise the risk and control the spread of animal-borne diseases.

Clean in and out

The key rule is to always 'clean in and out'.

This means that all vehicles, protective clothing and equipment should be cleansed and disinfected before and after contact with livestock and areas where livestock is kept.

All mud, dung and other matter should be soaked with disinfectant before removal. Disinfectant is made less effective by the presence of such materials.

Remember: you should always use a Defra approved disinfectant.

Infection Control

Advice for people

Footwear

Should be clean and free from adhesions after cleansing and disinfection.

Clothing

Wash by machine if soiled by material that may be contaminated.

Handling stock

Thoroughly wash and disinfect hands.

Advice for vehicles, machinery and equipment

Outside

  • All surfaces should be washed including wheel arches.

Wheels

  • Check all wheels for accumulation of animal manure and soil.
     
  • Always check the inner wheel rim surface close to any stub axles or frames.

Tyres

  • It is essential that all tyres are thoroughly washed before moving off.
     
  • Mud left on tyres and thrown at speed contaminates roads and vehicles.

Inside

  • Clean the inside of the cab etc.
     
  • Make sure that manure and other soil material is not carried on the pedals.
     
  • Pay particular attention to footwells.

After moving stock

  • Thoroughly wet all parts of the vehicle that have had contact with animals with disinfectant.
     
  • Remove all litter, dung etc.
     
  • Soak all parts again with disinfectant.
     
  • Disinfect anything used in connection with the transportation of livestock.

Further information

This is not an authoritative statement of the law and is intended for guidance only. Refer to the legislation for more detailed information.

For any further information please contact us.

Answer:
Bluetongue is a disease affecting all ruminants, including:
  • Sheep
  • Cattle
  • Deer
  • Goats
  • Camelids (camels, llamas, alpacas, guanaco and vicuña)

It does not affect horses or pigs. 

What are the causes?

It is caused by a virus spread by certain types of biting midges.

The midge season is normally March to September.

The weather, especially temperature and wind direction, affects how the disease can spread. 

What harm does it cause?

Bluetongue can have significant economic impacts in terms of:

  • On-farm losses due to death.
     
  • Sickness.
     
  • Reduced productivity.
     
  • Losses to export revenue because live exports are banned from affected areas. 

Please note: Bluetongue does not affect humans, animal products or meat.

How do I spot Bluetongue?

Sheep

In sheep the main signs of bluetongue are:

  • Ulcers in the mouth.
     
  • Discharge of mucus and drooling from the mouth and nose.
     
  • Swelling of the mouth, head and neck and the coronary band (where the skin of the leg meets the horn of the foot).

Other clinical signs include:

  • Red skin as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface.
     
  • Fever.
     
  • Lameness.
     
  • Breathing problems.

Cattle

Cattle are the main carriers of bluetongue.

Infected cattle generally do not show any signs of the disease, but occasionally signs can include:

  • Swelling and ulcers in the mouth.
     
  • Nasal discharge.
     
  • Red skin and eyes as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface.
     
  • Swollen teats.
     
  • Tiredness.

Other animals

They rarely show signs of the disease.

Role of local authorities

In Staffordshire, we are responsible for enforcing:

We focus on ensuring the farming industry are aware of any livestock movement restrictions and that they comply with any restrictions that are put into place.

Local authorities also aim to make sure that appropriate advice is provided and information is available to their local communities.

It is not expected that widespread control of midges will be undertaken and it is rarely possible to completely eliminate populations.

Reporting Bluetongue

If you suspect Bluetongue you must phone APHA immediately on 03000 200 301.

Please note: Failure to do so is an offence.

Answer:

This is a viral disease that affects:

  • horses
  • mules
  • donkeys

It is often fatal. If the affected animal recovers it remains a lifelong carrier of the disease and will be infectious to other animals. All infected animals must be humanely destroyed to control the spread of disease.

Please note: equine infectious anaemia only affects horses and is not a risk to human health.

What's the cause?

It is transmitted by large horseflies which are only active from May to September.

Although the horseflies only travel short distances to feed, the disease can be carried over long distances by infected horses or contaminated blood products.

The disease can also be spread through medical equipment such as needles and dental equipment or in the semen of infected animals.

The last outbreak in Great Britain was in 2012. It was found in 2 horses in Cornwall and Devon.

How do I recognise it?

Some infected animals don't show signs or the signs may be overlooked. Because they don't last for long, the symptoms shown will depend on the level of infection

Clinical signs can include:

  • A recurring fever.
     
  • Anaemia.
     
  • Tiredness, weakness and depression.
     
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.
     
  • Poor performance.
     
  • Loss of co-ordination.

Any horse displaying severe, unexplained anaemia should be isolated and tested for EIA as soon as possible.

How do I prevent it?

There is no vaccine available so owners must put their own prevention measures in place.

  • Use insect repellant and mesh to reduce exposure to biting flies.
     
  • Make sure there is appropriate quarantine and testing of horses coming in from areas where the disease is present.
     
  • Make sure responsibly sourced and certified blood products, semen and milk products are used.
     
  • Make sure all imports are legal and have all the correct paperwork. Don't be tempted to take shortcuts.
     
  • It is advisable for horses to be certified disease free before breeding .

Reporting

If you suspect Equine Infectious Anaemia you must phone APHA on 03000 200 301 immediately.

Please note: Failure to do so is an offence.

Answer:

Foot and mouth is a disease that affects cloven hoofed animals, most commonly sheep, cattle and pigs.

Other cloven hoofed animals including goats and deer can also be infected and introduce the disease to farm animals.

As such it is taken very seriously by the livestock and farming industry, and treated as a significant economic threat to the country.

The last outbreak in Great Britain was in 2007.

Risks to humans

Foot and mouth is generally not transferable to humans. It is possible, but extremely rare, even for people who work closely with animals.

Only a few cases of humans getting foot and mouth disease have ever been recorded. The last recorded case in the UK was in 1966. The person had a mild temperature, sore throat and blisters on their hands. There have been no recorded cases of the disease spreading between humans.

Please note: Foot and mouth disease should not be confused with a different condition called 'Hand, Foot and Mouth disease'. This condition does affect humans but not animals and is not related.

How do I spot it?

Cattle

Cattle with foot and mouth disease may develop sores and blisters:

  • on the feet
  • in the mouth
  • on the tongue

other clinical signs include:

  • fever
  • shivering
  • lameness
  • slobbering and smacking lips
  • cows producing less milk

Sheep

Sheep rarely develop mouth blisters as a result of foot and mouth disease. Blisters on the hoof are more common. In either location the blisters tend to be small and hard to spot.

Other signs include

  • Severe lameness, which may develop suddenly and spread quickly through the flock.
  • Tendency to lie down more than usual.
  • Unwillingness to move when made to stand.
  • High numbers of stillbirths, abortions and lambs dying soon after birth.
  • Tiredness in young lambs.
  • Ewes unwilling to allow lambs to suckle.

Pigs

Pigs do not usually develop blisters as a result of foot and mouth disease but sometimes blisters do appear on the:

  • upper edge of the hoof where the skin and horn meet
  • snout
  • tongue

Other signs include:

  • Sudden lameness which may develop quickly among the herd.
  • Loud squealing from pain.
  • Tendency to lie down and unwillingness to move.
  • Reluctance to feed.

The clinical signs of foot and mouth in pigs can be indistinguishable from Swine Vesicular Disease.

If you suspect Swine Vesicular Disease you must report your suspicions and treat the condition as suspected foot and mouth until laboratory tests prove otherwise.

How is it spread?

Foot and mouth disease is highly infectious. Animals can catch the virus through direct contact with an infected animal. The disease can also pass indirectly through:

  • equipment
  • vehicles
  • people
  • clothes
  • mud
  • bedding
  • any other item that has been in contact with infected animals

The virus is present in the fluid of the blisters that animals develop. It can also be found in their saliva, urine, dung, milk and exhaled air before signs of the disease appear.

Reporting

If you suspect foot and mouth disease you must phone APHA immediately on 03000 200 301.

Please note: Failure to do so is an offence.

Answer:

There are a number of rules that must be considered when importing and trading animals within the UK, particularly if the animals are subject to Rabies controls.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease of the nervous system which can affect all mammals including humans.

Most species of rabies-susceptible animals entering the UK are required to spend six months in quarantine, unless arriving under and complying with all the conditions of:

  • EU Regulation 998/2003 on the noncommercial movement of pet animals.
     
  • Balai for commercially traded animals.

Traders of mammals

If you are trading in mammals, you have a duty to make sure you know the origin of the animals you sell. If they are imported they must enter the country correctly and then they can be legally sold.

  • Make sure you have full traceability of all stock. This is required should there be a disease outbreak.
     
  • Ask your supplier with regards the origin of stock particularly some of the more exotic species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
     
  • Do you have all appropriate documentation for animals which may be subject to the Control in Trade Endangered Species (CITES).
     
  • Do not bring mammals into the country from pet fairs where reptiles are purchased. You must comply with transportation rules and CITES.

Failure to comply with animal health laws not only places us at risk of disease but may leave you liable for prosecution. If you are convicted this could lead to heavy fines and/or imprisonment. It may also result in your licence to operate a pet shop being withdrawn.  

Further information

This guidance is not intended to be a full interpretation of the law. If you need any further advice please contact us.

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