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THE recent excellent article by Barlow and others (2011) describing Echinococcus multilocularis infection in an imported European beaver (Castor fiber) illustrates the invaluable role that the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) plays in identifying emerging zoonotic diseases. It also illustrates how easily, had the owner buried the liver along with the rest of the carcase, the opportunity for making a diagnosis would have been missed.
The authors state that the affected beaver had been trapped in an area of Bavaria where beavers are also culled for their pelts and for human consumption. The trappers were said to have observed gross liver lesions consistent with E multilocularis infection in around 10 to 20 of 400 culled beavers. In view of this history, and the fact that at least 49 animals from the affected population have been imported into the UK in the past 10 years (Barlow and others 2011), one might reasonably ask what health screening is required for such importations. The answer would appear to be nil.
European Union legislation requires that live animals are traded freely between member states but, as far as we can determine, there is no statutory requirement for health checks, either before or after importation. Once in the UK, animals such as …