“The majority of dairy and suckler herds have evidence of IBR infection. There are similar levels between the two and the key challenge is herd-level prevention of the disease.” This is according to David Graham, deputy ceo of Animal Health Ireland (AHI) and programme manager for biosecure diseases.

The IBR virus damages the internal surface of the nose and the upper airways and may enter the blood to spread to other parts of the body. Some primary infections have no apparent clinical signs while others can be very severe such as dullness and reduced appetite, high temperature for four to five days, inflammation inside the nose and milk drop among more.

Speaking to AgriLand before today’s AHI National Conference, Graham said overall current IBR vaccinations are working well. There are two types of vaccination for IBR. “One type is a ‘live virus’ which purpose is to lock-in the virus and stop it waking up. The second type is a dead virus which is designed to provide protection for those animals not yet infected. Overall the current vaccinations work well. Animals born after vaccination are likely to be free from evidence of IBR infection.”

He outlined that data from Teagasc’s research centre in Moorepark indicates there is a seasonal variation to the disease. “Coming into the winter months it takes off,” he said. In terms of weanlings, he said vaccination here can be very helpful and marts are an ideal place for an outbreak as large numbers of weanlings are being assembled from different herds. However he stressed that farmers should talk to their vet before using these products.

He said IBR is a top priority for AHI and knowledge transfer is key in its framework programme to deal with IBR.  “I will be arguing the case today for a national control programme,” he said. “The disease does pose challenges to live exports.”

He noted that Ireland historically has low levels of IBR. “It emerged in the US in the 1950s and didn’t reach Ireland until the 1990s.”

“It is a complex diseases. Latency is its one trick to persist in the herd. All animals that have a primary infection subsequently develop a ‘latent’ or hidden infection. After recovery from the clinical signs, the virus is able to survive for the lifetime of the animal. The animal becomes a lifelong carrier.”

Graham also noted: “Isolation and good bio-security are important ways of protecting herds.”

The Animal Health Ireland National Conference is taking place today.

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