WORKING closely with colleagues at Defra, EPIC* scientists assess which diseases have most potential to spread into Scotland and what impact they might have on the livestock industry.

Overall, the risk of the introduction of exotic disease of livestock and horses into Scotland remains low to negligible. In the last year, in addition to foot-and-mouth, bluetongue and avian influenza have become increasingly important potential disease threats.

The EPIC system isn't perfect - it only provides general estimates of risk and impact, but its ability to flag up concerns or changes in risk levels can help Scotland to be prepared; after all, forewarned is forearmed.


This disease is classified as high impact as it infects cattle, sheep and pigs, spreads rapidly, as well as having devastating impacts on trade and on society.

However, the risk of an incursion is classed as low, as it is not currently present within Europe, our most common trade partners. But there are outbreaks in Turkey and North Africa.

It can be introduced through a number of routes so, assessed with the other disease features, it is one of our most important threats.


As was well reported at the time, avian flu arrived back in Scotland for the first time in a decade with one case reported in January, 2016, as well as several cases in England in 2014 and 2015.

The cases are all thought to have originated in wild birds. Preventing contact between poultry and wild birds, or areas that wild birds access such as ponds, reduces the risk.


This was found last year in central France for the first time in several years and has also been reported in other parts of Europe.

The culicoides midges that carry bluetongue are not active over winter, but as temperatures increase in spring, there may be further spread of the disease.

Farmers thinking about importing livestock from Europe this year should speak to their vet about bluetongue risk.


Risk of introduction - Global distribution of each disease and how much we trade with these countries is considered. Different introduction routes of disease include movements of live animals, animal products, vectors or via migratory birds and are rated by their importance as mechanisms of disease introduction.

Impact of disease on international trade, human health and Scottish livestock - Expert knowledge is compiled to rank different features of disease, such as the severity of disease in infected animals, the potential of the disease to spread, its impacts on international trade, and whether it represents a risk to human health, and consider this in the context of the Scottish livestock population.

* Funded by Scottish Government, EPIC is the Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks. It brings together Scottish-based scientific expertise delivering independent, evidence-based advice to help prepare Scotland for animal disease outbreaks.

It is run by a consortium of scientists from SRUC, Glasgow University, University of Edinburgh, the Roslin Institute, the Moredun Insitute, the James Hutton Institute and BIOSS.

For more information see