An account of bovine tuberculosis eradication in Ireland
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The main legislation regarding bovine tuberculosis in Europe is the European Union Council Directive 64/432/EEC which concerns intra community trade of bovine animals or swine intended for breeding; production; or slaughter. This legislation sets down laws on the transport of animals; the vehicles used; and the requirements for slaughter. For animals to be transported they must come from an official tuberculosis free herd. The Irish legislation is based on the Diseases of Animal Act, 1966, which has been amended over the years to meet with European requirements and to incorporate new findings that benefit the health of animals in Ireland. The Bovine Tuberculosis (Attestation of the State and General Provisions) Order, 1989, concerns tuberculosis specifically. Each year the combination of European and Irish legislation are compiled to include new amendments to give an up to date version for SVI’s; VI’s; veterinary practitioners etc. to refer to when dealing with bovine tuberculosis. The Irish eradication programme finds its origins in 1962 when it became a nationwide obligatory programme for all cattle herds in the Republic of Ireland. Upon its introduction a vast improvement was seen with a drop in tuberculosis incidence from 17% to just 0.44% in 1965. Throughout the years of its implementation is has seen many developments and changes to its practices. Most notably are those made in 1988 with the establishment of ERAD (the Eradication of Animal Diseases Board) with the intentions of reducing the disease incidence by half in just 4 years. Although it did not meet its preset targets a number of measures were introduced which are still used in the programme today. The current eradication programme is based on a two strategy defence by tackling not only cattle to cattle transmission but also cattle to wildlife transmission. The success of this programme is aided by the recent introduction of the AHCS, Animal Health Computer System, which is a web based database that allows the electronic exchange of information between different departments. The AHCS incorporates the AIMS (Animal Identification and Movement System), the TOTS (Trace Onward Tracking System), the LIMS (Laboratory Information System) and the CCS (Corporate Customer System). The Wildlife Unit of the current eradication programme is an integral asset and works in conjunction with DVOs in the removal of badgers after an epidemiological investigation has been carried out proving that badgers are the likely source of the tuberculosis breakdown. The long term goal of the Wildlife Unit is in the development of a vaccine to be used in badgers therefore prevent the spread of tuberculosis between badgers and cattle. Quality control is also an important part of 39 the national programme as regards the tuberculin vaccine; equipment used for testing; veterinary surgeons performing the test and the allowance of animals into slaughter plants. For the prevention and control of tuberculosis; herd classification and test type priorities are essential when establishing which holding warrants further investigation and possibly inspection. If they do then an epidemiological investigation is carried out by a VI in order to ascertain the source of infection and to speak with the keeper about management; cleaning and disinfection; and zoonotic implications of the disease. Contiguous testing is usually carried out after an epidemiological investigation has been completed, it is of great relevance in helping to minimize the effects of a tuberculosis breakdown, and also helps identify and remove reactors early. In recent years there have been significant developments in the research of bovine tuberculosis eradication. The Four Area Project and East Offaly Project both helped to prove that the removal of badgers from an area helps to decrease the disease incidence in said area. As a result of these developments, badger culling was formally introduced into the national eradication programme in 2004. Also, the implementation of the AHCS has greatly improved the integration of different departments and the sharing of information which helps to generate full herd profiles and therefore the assessment of the severity of breakdowns.