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Veterinary Surveillance

Veterinary Surveillance

The Review of Veterinary Surveillance

The system for gathering, analysing and disseminating information on animal diseases in Scotland has been reviewed by a panel chaired by former NFUS president John Kinnaird.

The final report was published on 9 November 2011.  An analysis of the Responses to the Farmers' Survey was published in March 2011.

What is veterinary surveillance?

Veterinary surveillance (or animal disease surveillance) is the process of collecting information on diseases and infections in animals to provide early warning of:

  • new threats to animal or human health or animal welfare
  • changes in known conditions
  • changes in husbandry or controls which might allow new conditions to emerge
  • the introduction of an exotic disease.

The Scottish Government funds the collection of information on diseases and infections in animals from a variety of sources which include the diagnostic laboratory network operated by the Scottish Agricultural College. Routine information is also provided by the Moredun Research Institute, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Meat Hygiene Service. This method of collecting information is called passive or scanning surveillance. This method can be useful for detecting new conditions when they first appear. BSE and the current "bleeding calf syndrome" are examples of diseases first spotted in this way.

The Scottish Government also conducts specific surveys to measure the prevalence of certain diseases. This is known as targeted or active surveillance. Some of these surveys are continuous, such as the bovine abortion reporting system operated for the Scottish Government by APHA. This is intended to detect any incursion of Brucella abortus by imported cattle. This important disease of cattle and humans was eradicated from Scotland many years ago and the surveillance scheme has helped to keep us free of the disease. Other specific surveys, such as the 2007 bovine viral diarrhoea survey have been used to estimate the prevalence of diseases which are known to be present in the country. Specific surveys are also carried out to confirm that certain diseases, such as bluetongue, are absent from the country.

International Disease Monitoring is the UK's early warning system for animal disease circulating in other countries. It monitors disease outbreaks worldwide and assesses the risk of incursion, using information from an international network of veterinary authorities and scientists. Further details are available from the International Disease Monitoring webpage.

The cost of veterinary surveillance in Scotland

In the financial year 2009/10 the grant to SAC to support animal disease surveillance activities was £3.55 million. A further £237K was allocated to funding specialised virological and pathological services at the Moredun Research Institute which support the SAC veterinary laboratories.

Routine testing for bovine brucellosis is also funded by Scottish Government. In 2008/09 SAC received laboratory fees for the examination of bovine abortion samples. Scottish Milk, based in Glasgow, was also paid for the brucellosis testing of bulk milk samples. The total spend on brucellosis during the financial year was close to £80,000.

The costs of routine surveillance for other notifiable diseases such as anthrax and bovine tuberculosis and international disease monitoring are met from the GB Animal Health and Welfare budget.

In addition to the annual grant from Scottish Government the SAC veterinary laboratories earn laboratory fees paid by users of their diagnostic service.