Legal aspects of prophylaxis against contagious diseases in Norway with special regards to bluetongue disease
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The border control is one of the most important measures to be taken in order to prevent contagious diseases causing significant financial losses to enter a country. As a country free of such diseases Norway practices a strict border control. The EU has laid down directives of animal health and guarantees that are to apply for all the member states in order to make the intra-community trading as easy as possible. Ensuring equal requirements for all member states will result in safe, but free circulation among the member states. These directives are mainly laid down in the Council Directive 64/432/EEC of 26 June 1964 for bovine animals and the Council Directive 91/68/EEC of 28 January 1991 for ovine and caprine animals. These directives states that no animal is to leave the member state if it does not fulfill the requirements of the directive such as the requirements to proper ID; health certificate; the animal must not be under any restriction and so on. The Council Directive 64/432/EEC provides that if the member states or a region of the member state are practicing national surveillance programs for one or more diseases or if they are officially free of a disease these states may require additional demands to the import animals, a guarantee that the animals are officially free of that particular disease and the right to test the animals. Norway is a cooperative state with the EU and is therefore subject to these directives. However Norway is free to add additional requirements and all production animals in and imported to Norway are subject to the Norwegian laws and under this; the Food Act. The main regulations of import are found in the FOR 1998-12-31 nr. 1484: –“Regulations of control of import and export of living animals, semen and embryos and waste of animal origin within the EEA and import from third countries”. The biggest difference between intra-community trading in the EU and trading with Norway is that Norway requires a quarantine period. FOR 2002-06-27 nr 732 is about the regulations of preventing animal diseases and in its Chap. 3 § 8 the provisions for surveillance, isolation, and control are laid down. During this isolation period extensive testing of the animals is required done according to the FOR 2006-02-14 nr 199 - “Instructions to the NFSA and NFSA district offices concerning isolation and testing”. The goal of the Norwegian Livestock Industry’s Biosecurity Unit (KOORIMP), which is a cooperation between the biggest companies in the food production, is to improve the Norwegian products by adding additional requirements to the imported animals. Based on both the EU and the Norwegian legislation it can be concluded that this is a system that in theory gives very good food safety, however both the EU and Norway are totally dependent on serious actors in the market, from the farmer and all the way up the production line to the final product. The veterinarians have an especially importing role ensuring good animal health and food safety because we are present all the way and have the authority to solve problems that may arise along the way. It could have been expected to find quite big differences in the legislation of the EU compared to the Norwegian one, however there are not. The only really big difference is the requirement of isolation of production animals being imported in to Norway, a requirement forbidden in the intra-community trading in the EU. Norway is a small country that has borders only to Russia, Finland and Sweden. Our climate is cold and quite hostile to potential vectors of several diseases and in this way the country is lucky because it partly gives it a natural protection. It is a big and important job to do in ensuring that the good animal health status stays this way. The current legislation makes importing animals quite complicated for the importer; however, importing semen/embryos is not as difficult. This is a fact that is quite important because we need new genes in order to continuously develop and improve our production animals. The bluetongue virus has been spreading drastically in Europe the last decades causing great losses before the vaccine against BTV-8 was introduced in 2008. In order to control this disease the member states of the EU, EFTA and EEA laid down directives to be followed. The main directive is the 2000/75/EC of November 2000 laying down specific provisions for the control and eradication of Bluetongue. Surveillance is an important measure in order to control the disease and in 2007 the surveillance of the vector Culicoides spp. started in Norway.In 2008, in addition to the surveillance of the vector, the direct surveillance of animals started. This was done by passive clinical observation of the animals and active serological testing of both milk and blood samples. Due to this surveillance program the virus was detected the 20th of February 2009. The extent of the outbreak was 4 infected herds and in all 33 animals. The source of infection was never exactly determined but the Norwegian Veterinary Institute (NVI) strongly suspects the source to be infected Culicoides vectors carried by the wind from Denmark or Sweden in August-October 2008. The geographical extent of the outbreak was limited to the southern part of Norway. After analyzing the results of the surveillance programs and the outbreak and taking the limited geographical extent and the relatively small number of animals infected in to account and also the time of year (out of the vectors active season) the outbreak was detected it was decided not to vaccinate against BTV-8. In the following years after the outbreak extensive surveillance was performed according to the Commission Regulation 1266/2007/EC on implementing rules for Council Directive 2000/75/EC as regards the control, monitoring, surveillance and restrictions on movements of certain animals of susceptible species in relation to bluetongue. No more BTV positive herds were detected in the two following years and from the 28th of March the NVI concluded that Norway could be considered as a BTV free state. The BTV outbreak gave Norway an opportunity to see how its system worked. It can be stated that the connection between the farmers and the veterinary authorities is good. There is a lot of information about the disease, routes of infection, clinical signs, measures to be taken and so on, on all the web pages the farmers visit. This is important because the information and communication is very important factors in eradicating a disease. The main way of directly monitoring the situation was testing the bulk milk of the herds in 10 counties in the southern part of Norway. This proved to be quite easy to execute because a big number of animals could be tested with a low amount of people having to be involved. The relevant BT legislation seems to be clear and exact hence one can react quickly if the virus is detected in an area. Vaccinationcould be one of the main measures to be taken to be able to control the BT disease, however,it could be effective and beneficial, as the Norwegian BT cases proved, not to do it. The situation was more or less under control when the decision was made and there were more arguments against vaccination than to vaccinate. The economical aspect is important and Norway did save a lot of money, however, the possibility to obtain a free status after two years if no more animals became positive was the most positive factor.