New TB stats suggest a downward trend
NEW TB statistics for 2007, published this week, suggest that the disease is beginning to decline without any cull say the Badger Trust.
The statistics cover all of 2007 and, whilst the number of new incidents is six per cent higher than in 2006, it is only one per cent higher than in 2005. Moreover, the number of cattle slaughtered as reactors is down nine per cent on 2005. This is despite a sharp rise of 18 per cent between 2006 and 2007, following Defra's extended use of the gamma interferon blood test for TB.
The fall over a two year period contrasts with an eight per cent increase in the number of herds tested and an 11 per cent increase in the number of cattle tested.
Trevor Lawson from the Badger Trust commented: "We hope that this is an early indication that Defra's tightening TB-testing regime is starting to bear fruit. It was always predicted by scientists that the increase in testing would trigger a perceived increase in the number of outbreaks, simply because more already-infected cattle were being detected.
"But it is also known that better testing will reverse the disease by removing infected livestock faster. That reverse may already be happening, particularly because the Government is now using the gamma interferon test more frequently.
"However, we still believe that not enough testing is being done. Nor is the gamma interferon test yet being used often enough. It is essential that Defra keeps its foot on the testing accelerator and dramatically extends the use of gamma interferon. There are certainly many more infected herds out there yet to be found and whilst these latest results are promising, we may not yet have seen the peak in this insidious cattle disease.
"One figure which does worry us is the fall of 62 per cent in the number of cattle slaughtered as dangerous contacts over the last two years. We would expect the fall in the number of dangerous contacts to parallel the fall in the number of animals slaughtered as reactors. But this drop is much greater, suggesting that a different interpretation of 'dangerous contact' is being applied. If that means that potentially infected cattle are not being identified, that must be investigated and addressed."