Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pathogens - Lest we forget.

Joining the media frenzy over a member Woodchester Park's staff who is said to have had a brush with badgerTB, is today's Times. But this should serve as a reminder to all of us, of the reasons for the eradication of bTB. All except those who have commented on the Times' article that is. And there was us thinking readers of that erudite publication were in possession of at least half a brain.

Our big sister site also gave it a prominent post.

Pathogens are listed in different classes according to virulence, infectivity and potential treatment. And lurking in HSE's labyrinth of publications is a listing of various pathogens and their classes. Mycobacterium bovis, the causal agent of bTB is listed as Grade 3. To put that in perspective, only such nasties as Ebola, Lassa Fever and flesh eating bugs are considered more dangerous at Grade 4. Most human diseases, and certainly the ones with which we are regularly bombarded with scare stories by the media, are Grade 2.

The EU, OIE and WHO rules on the handling and containment of pathogens within Grade 3 listings include as a definite 'Yes' to the following:
* People in contact to have regular medical checks for up to 40 years after the last known exposure.
* Access to pathogenic material limited to nominated persons.
* Air filtered by HEPA or other such systems.
* Infected material including any animal to be handled in a a safety cabinet, or in isolation or other suitable containment.
* Carcasses incinerated.
* Bio hazard signs posted.
* Protective clothing to be worn.
* Decontamination facilities to be provided.

Many more actions are 'recommended' as precautions against infection for Grade 3 pathogens. See page 12 of the pdf report (link at the end of this post) for the grading of m.bovis, and pages 21/22 for safety requirements. This is just one of many documents which detail precautions needed for people in contact with this grade of pathogen.

Now we do have a sense of humour, being farmers it comes with the territory. But to comply with the above, would take more than a little organisation, we feel. So we suggest :
* Bio-hazard signs on public footpaths crossing farms under TB restriction.
* A register of people entering the restricted premises.
* Protective clothing including masks and footwear, and an approved disinfectant at entrances to farms, fields and footpaths where movement restrictions apply.
* Handy 'badger bins' into which could be placed any carcasses found, suitably wrapped of course, prior to incineration in an approved facility.
And for the HSE decontamination facilities? Perhaps a sheep dip would suffice?
It's about time Defra took the control and eradication of this pathogen as seriously as do the HSE and the EU. One of the many documents which relate to Grade 3 pathogens and their handling, can be viewed here.

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