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Minutes of a General Meeting of the Society held on Tuesday 28th September 2004, at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB.

Present:  the President Mr. B. Hoskin and 27 Fellows and guests.

Apologies for absence had been received from 19 Fellows.

Minutes of the meeting held on 15th June 2004 had been circulated and were approved.

Matters arising:  none.

Correspondence:  none

Any Other Business:  none.

Those present stood in silence in memory of Dr. Calvert Appleby, past-president and longtime Fellow of the Society, who died earlier this year.

The meeting also warmly welcomed a new Fellow, Dr. Andrew Edney.

The meeting was then addressed by Dr. Steven Edwards, Chief Executive of the VLA, who gave an overview of the work of the Agency, from its beginnings in Whitehall Place in 1894, through the move to the open country of Weybridge in 1917, and growth thereafter.  He then described the Agency's research, surveillance, laboratory and consultancy services, business and management services and emergency response capacity through the national network of laboratories, and looked forward to a planned relocation to Pirbright in the future.

Dr. Nick Johnston then spoke about rabies, a disease recognised since ancient times.  It was recorded in the UK in foxhounds in 1885, eradicated in 1902, reintroduced in 1918 through post-war smuggling, and finally eliminated in 1921.  He described the decisions taken following the Kennedy report in 1998, which described the disease as entirely vaccine preventable, and led to the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme.  Modern diagnosis relies on four different tests, FAT, VI, VN and PCR, and the most recent UK cases since 1996 have all involved the bat lyssavirus strain.  He then treated the meeting to a scoop, by reporting the most recent case which had only been diagnosed the previous week in Staines, in a Daubenton's bat.  You hear it first at the CVS!

Mr. Roger Hancock then spoke about surveillance, and the Disease Emergency Response Committee which had been convened in 2002 following the FMD epizootic.  The scale of laboratory requirement then had been enormous, going from 400 tests per week to 230,000 tests per week in a few months.  The logistics were described, drafting staff from other areas and making sensible risk/benefit assessments and using lower-containment facilities as the need arose.  It was resolved never, ever to have to do that again, hence the new, detailed contingency plans.

Finally, Dr. Richard Clifton-Hadley spoke about "the rise and rise of bovine tuberculosis, 1986-2004", beginning with an alarming visual presentation of the increasing incidence of reported infection.  The increase post-FMD had been frightening, and was only now being mopped up.  The disease may now be enzootic in Cumbria.  The UK situation was compared with that in other countries, noting that we were regressing while Australia had achieved eradication.  However, while there is little human infection (and that mainly in immigrant AIDS cases) there is little pressure, although the emergence of drug resistance in the UK might change that.  Changing from the poorly-specific skin test to β-interferon might improve matters, but the really effective measure would be pre-movement testing.  A 'no- brainer', but a nightmare to implement.

There followed a lively discussion, and the meeting closed with a showing of 'VLA, the Movie'.

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