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Could we spot the next BSE?, asks BVA President

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CONCERN about the robustness of the surveillance network in England and Wales was expressed by the BVA President, John Blackwell, in his speech to the Association's annual London dinner last week.

Mr Blackwell said that, while the BVA understood the need for rationalisation and efficiency, it was concerned that the surveillance system that had been relied on in recent years was being dismantled without the replacement being properly tested. If information coming from postmortem examinations was not systematically and consistently fed into a central data collection point, it would be ‘a lot harder to join the dots’ and to spot a problem, something that was the ‘very foundation of a robust surveillance system’.

‘If there is now a risk that we have a less responsive and accurate diagnosis system, a system that is as yet not joined up and integrated, we leave ourselves vulnerable, less able to spot new and emerging diseases and act quickly to contain them’

As well as identifying known threats, a robust surveillance mechanism needed to identify the unknowns: ‘If there is now a risk that we have a less responsive and accurate diagnosis system, a system that is as yet not joined up and integrated, we leave ourselves vulnerable, less able to spot new and emerging diseases and act quickly to contain them,’ said Mr Blackwell. ‘This risk is multiplied if the network of surveillance – that strategic ability to horizon scan – is patchy. We fear this may now be the case. Soon after I qualified back in 1985, BSE was effectively diagnosed because of our network of surveillance laboratories. A network that allowed us to grasp and understand the emerging threat and identify the unknown risk. Are we confident we have the systems in place to spot the next emergent threat, the next …

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