Viruses and vectors in Europe

On 19 June 2009, SCI’s BioResources Technical Group hosted a one-day conference at SCI’s headquarters to discuss the threat to Europe posed by vector-borne viruses. This conference not only provided a unique opportunity to meet and hear from the acknowledged experts in this emerging field, but provided an insight into how risk assessment programmes are funded and operate in the UK.

A key theme in the morning session was the dramatic emergence of bluetongue virus, which has had a massive impact on the sheep and cattle industries of Europe over the past ten years. This is one of very few viruses whose expansion in range has been coherently linked to the effects of climate change. Its arrival in the UK has presented a fascinating test of our readiness to combat vector-borne disease. The likelihood that other insect transmitted viruses may follow, is a subject that always generates lively debate and formed a large part of the discussion during this session. The ways in which organisations both monitor and combat these viral outbreaks was the subject of the afternoon session. We examined the response of both governments and stakeholders to the appearance of viruses, and addressed the thorny issue of translating science into policy. In addition, a practical view was taken of what we can do to ameliorate the effects of these outbreaks in the future.

Simon Carpenter, SCI’s BioResources Technical Group

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