Biosecurity practices for animal health: guidance for public sector staff

Management practices that collectively reduce the potential for the introduction or spread of animal disease-causing organisms onto and between farms.

Animal diseases

Avian influenza

A highly infectious disease of birds caused by an influenza type A virus that normally infects birds. The disease in birds can manifest itself in a number of different forms ranging from relatively mild to severe. Certain wild birds, particularly waterfowl, commonly carry the milder forms. The best defence is a high level of awareness and good biosecurity.

Bovine tuberculosis

An infectious and contagious disease of cattle caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. Human beings and a wide range of mammals are also susceptible to this bacterium. Airborne exposure through close contact is considered to be the main route of infection in cattle. Cattle are subject to a compulsory eradication programme, the two main elements of which are free tuberculin skin testing and routine post mortem meat inspection.


An infection in cattle caused by the bacterium Brucella abortus, which can also cause a disease in humans known as “Undulant Fever”. The infection in cattle causes abortion or premature calving of recently infected animals. Cattle coming into contact with an infected animal around the time of calving may also become infected.

Classical swine fever (CSF)/African swine fever (ASF) 

Highly contagious viral diseases of pigs. Infected animals suffer clinical forms of the disease and mortality rates can be high. They pose a severe threat to animal welfare and affect productivity. ASF and CSF can be transmitted over long distances via contaminated materials or meat products. The last CSF outbreak in the UK was in 2000.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD)

Caused by a highly infectious virus. Cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer are all susceptible. FMD can be spread by direct contact with an infected animal; airborne spread from an infected animal; infected material carried on vehicles' tyres and wheel arches and on machinery; people (e.g. on hands, hair and clothing) and equipment. FMD is the only exotic disease where public access to the countryside would be closed automatically in the protection or surveillance zone.

Newcastle disease

A highly contagious viral disease of birds. Virus-bearing material can be picked up on shoes and clothing and carried from an infected flock to a healthy one. The virus can survive for several weeks in a warm and humid environment on birds' feathers, manure and other materials. Possible routes of transmission therefore include contact between poultry and also through movements of contaminated vehicles, equipment, manure, feed and water. During October/November 2006, Newcastle disease was confirmed in East Lothian.

Swine influenza

Affecting pigs it is an acute, highly contagious, respiratory disease that results from infection with type A influenza virus. H1N1 is the most commonly found serotype but other subtypes include H3N2, H1N2. Swine influenza is not a notifiable disease (i.e. a disease that has a high impact on productivity or serious zoonotic consequences) because it causes transient infection with low mortality in pigs.

For further information on the above and other specific animal diseases refer to the animal health section of the Scottish Government website.

Fish diseases

Gyrodactylus salaris

A parasite, less than half a millimetre in size, which infects salmon, trout and some other types of fish in fresh water. The parasite occurs naturally in the Baltic rivers of Finland and Russia. Some years ago, the disease was accidentally transferred to some rivers of the west coast of Sweden and Norway. The effects of the disease have been so serious that salmon stocks have now been completely lost from more than 20 Norwegian rivers. 

Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA)

An infectious viral disease of Atlantic salmon. The disease was first reported in Norway in 1984, but has since been reported in Canada, the USA, the Faroe Islands, Ireland and Scotland. The most recent outbreak in the UK occurred in Shetland in January 2009 (ongoing at time of print). 

Plant and forestry pests and diseases

Phytophthora ramorum and P. kernoviae 

Serious fungus-like pathogens that damage a range of ornamental and native plants and trees and are subject to eradication measures in Scotland. 

Phytophthora ramorum

Has caused extensive damage to trees and native plants in parts of the USA. It has also been found in a number of European countries, mostly on shrubs. Since 2007, P. ramorum has been found in shrubs in a small number of sites, most of which are historic gardens, in the west of Scotland.

Phytophthora kernoviae

Has only been found in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. It has been found to cause damage to a number of trees including beech and English oak and also extensive death of Vaccinium myrtillus in Cornwall. In 2008 P. kernoviae was found in shrubs in a few historic garden sites in the west of Scotland and infected V. myrtillus at one site.

Pseudomonas syringae

Pathovar aesculi (horse chestnut bleeding canker) has, in recent years, been isolated and identified in Britain. To try to understand better the incidence and spread of this disease a nationwide-survey was carried out in 2007, this indicated that one third of rural and one half of urban horse chestnuts to be symptomatic. 

Dothistroma septosporum (or red band needle blight)

Caused by the fungus Dothistroma septosporum, has been found on a range of conifer species in Great Britain. Pine species are by far the most common hosts, with Corsican pine and Lodgepole pine being the main species affected in Scotland, although it has been found on Scots pine which appears to be more resistant to the disease than the former species.

Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus (Potato ring rot)

A serious bacterial disease of potatoes which is listed as a quarantine organism in the EC Plant Health Directive and is notifiable in the UK. It is spread mainly in infected planting material, but can survive on surfaces and in debris.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000 (Central Enquiry Unit)

Scottish Government
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Saughton House


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