Suspect BSE case highlights importance of all-island disease surveillance, say vets

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Veterinary associations in the UK and Northern Ireland have praised the timely communications on the suspected case of BSE in the Republic of Ireland and said it is an important reminder of the essential need for robust surveillance systems north and south of the border, and across the UK and beyond.

The Irish Government stated yesterday (Thursday 11 June 2015) that a suspected case of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) has been identified in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland and that further tests are being carried out on the five-year-old cow, and are expected to be completed within the next week.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, is a fatal disease that attacks the animal’s brain and central nervous system.

The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said the cow was not presented for slaughter and did not enter the food chain.

The Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, Robert Huey, has stated that NI beef is safe to eat.

The North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) and British Veterinary Association have praised the measured and timely communications between the authorities on both sides of the border.

Commenting, Simon Doherty, President of NIVA and the BVA Northern Ireland Branch, said: “We understand that it will be next week before we hear the results of the confirmatory tests but we commend DAFM Minister Coveney for keeping the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (DARD) Minister O’Neill fully briefed on developments with the case.

“Whilst the presentation of this case is disappointing, particularly just days after the World Animal Health Organisation granted ‘negligible risk’ status to the Republic of Ireland with respect to BSE, it highlights the robust mechanisms delivering reliable livestock disease surveillance and investigation, and ultimately food safety, reflected both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.”

Commenting, John Blackwell, President BVA, said:

“Whilst this case is only a suspicion at present it clearly demonstrates we can never take our eye off the ball in disease surveillance.

“It’s important to emphasise however, that there is zero risk to human health as the animal did not enter the food chain.

Vigilance , robust surveillance and applications of official controls within the processing industry therefore need to be maintained.”